April 3, 2019

Tulip Tell-All: Q&A With Kate Onos-Gilbert

Looking for the perfect Instagram shoot opportunity? You're in luck: the 13th annual Chilliwack Tulip Festival is on for four weeks, starting April 10th, 2019. Formerly called Tulips of the Valley, we chatted with founder (and farmer) Kate Onos-Gilbert about the event, which will, overall, feature 20 acres of spring beauty. —Noa Nichol


Hi Kate! Tell us a bit about yourself to start!

I am a mother of three children, Keaghan 17, Ryley 15 and Mya 11. My husband and I, along with his family, own Onos Greenhouses where we grow over 7 million cut tulips each spring in our greenhouses. We also grow many other cut flowers including hyacinths, daffodils, peonies, anemone, renuculis and calla lilies on a smaller scale. I am an Occupational therapist by trade and have worked for almost 20 years in Pediatrics.

Why the change of name this year, from Tulips of the Valley to the Chilliwack Tulip Festival?

When we began the festival in 2006 I chose the name because of our location in the valley. We were the only tulip festival and the name worked well for us. We have now changed locations and with two festivals in the valley, it just made sense to change our name to include our location. We wanted to decrease the confusion that many people have had over the last four years with two festivals now in operation.

Besides the name change, what else is new this year?

There’s a lot new this year! We have introduced Tilly Tulip, our tulip mascot. We have a giant wooden shoe for photo ops as well as a pair of large wooden shoes to stand in. We are now offering tractor rides to bring our guests to the tulip fields. The tulips are a bit further away this year as a result of crop rotation, which we need to do regularly for optimum soil health. Our festival store now includes a very large selection of tulip treasures and souvenirs from magnets and keychains, to Tilly tulip dolls and other toys, to high-end By-Lin Tulip purses. The store has grown significantly! We will also have a small selection of sunflower seeds available for people who want to plant them in their own gardens, as a nod to our second sunflower festival which is coming this summer.

And what attractions are returning?

We are welcoming back the Chilliwack Fraser Rotary Train on weekends, we will have our famous swings, and we’ll have tonnes of great photo ops, as usual, some that we introduced during our sunflower festival. Plus, we’ll have fun lawn games again like giant Jenga, giant checkers, and that sort of thing.

Personal question: your favourite place/way to take a selfie at the festival?

I love using the specialty daffodils as the backdrop my pictures. We introduced those last year. It is also a lot of fun using the photo frames in different locations around the fields. And I can’t wait to get a family photo in our giant wooden shoe, or Klompe, as they say in Dutch!


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