Mothers celebrate at the Tulip Festival
Event has flowers, music and ice sculptures
By Kelly Patterson, Ottawa Citizen May 9, 2011
The rain held off for the festival at Major's Hill Park.Photograph by: Pat McGrath, The Ottawa Citizen, Ottawa Citizen
OTTAWA — t's the ultimate Mother's Day combo: Tulips, quilting, flower-arranging, sweetvoiced choirs and outdoor art. Even the glowering Ottawa skies held off from their deluge as hundreds of moms and their admirers turned out for the Canadian Tulip Festival.
Becky Cronin was emerging from a tent where a bizarre combination of ice carvers and flower arrangers shared the stage before a rapt audience, in simultaneous but separate demonstrations of their crafts.
"It's fantastic," said Cronin, a bouquet of artfully arranged flowers over one arm. As her husband and son took off in the direction of the Lego booth, she remarked that "the ice carver had a chainsaw going, so I could get the boys to sit with me" while she watched the flower arranging.
"There's no way they would have done that otherwise."
Once finished, the bouquets were given at random to audience members. Cronin scored hers after her seven-year-old son Ben popped up from his seat to follow the performer.
"And he tapped him on the bum!" she laughed, part tickled, part mortified.
Cronin found the ice carving a compelling sight: "It was very dramatic. There was ice flying all over the place . Then the guy took out a huge blowtorch at the very end," to 'polish' the carving.
Meanwhile, business was booming at the Lego Community Garden, a booth where youngsters knee-deep in Lego pieces were free to create whatever they wanted.
"I have Lego at home and I love playing with it." said nine-year-old Zakary Michel-Hoisak.
"Sometimes I can make the instructions for it in my head. It's fun," he said.
His creation today? A blue tulip, more than half-a-metre tall.
"It's my dream to go to Legoland and go on the Lego boats," said Zakary, who was at the festival with his grandmother, Cynthia Hoisak.
A few steps away, the talk was of turkey-tracks and herringbone stitches as people took in the Kaleidoscope Community Quilt, where a lively spread of vivid diamond-shaped squares is quickly taking shape as a wallcovering designed to celebrate peace and friendship.
The quilt is a work of "community art," in which any member of the public who knows a stitch or two is welcome to walk up and help sew, explains Gabby Ewen, one of three artists with the Moon Rain Centre, which conceived the project.
Based in Val des Monts, the non-profit centre is dedicated to strengthening community bonds through tapestry and fabric art projects.
"Weaving transmits the energy of peace -that is an ancient indigenous belief," says Thoma Ewen, artistic director of the centre.
A tapestry artist for 37 years, Ewen has directed projects across Canada as well as in France and Britain.
When it's completed, the Tulip Festival quilt will feature an orange-red tulip rising up against a background of hundreds of diamondshaped patches.
Appliquéd to the quilt will be hundreds of ribbons, on which people have written messages.
"They can write anything they want as long as it's related to the theme," says Gabby Ewen, adding that the kids' messages are particularly striking.
On a side-table, several ribbons await their moment to be added to the quilt.
One reads, "Ottawa is a beautiful city filled with kind and loving people. Peace. -Mariza."
Another reads, "Peace is using The Force for good, not evil. Long live the Jedi."
Ewen says that as many as 25,000 people may have added to the quilt before it's finished, explaining that -at almost five metres long and a metre-and-a-half wide -the piece should be large enough to accommodate the contribution of everyone who is interested.
The finished quilt will then become part of the festival's fine art collection, and may be hung in a public venue such as the new conference centre, City Hall or the airport, she says.
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