Thousands of tulips will brighten Lewes this month as the city celebrates its heritage and the eye-catching arrival of spring

By Jeanne Shook
From the April 2019 issue


The tulip has been celebrated since its origin in the 16th-century Ottoman Empire. Sultans considered this flower a symbol of wealth, sometimes sporting one on their turbans as a sign of prosperity. In the late 1500s, Turkish traders introduced tulips to Holland, where the bulbs were cultivated, and proliferated, in large numbers.


Eventually, Dutch emigrants brought their prized flower to Lewes, where it remains an icon of the town’s 17th-century Dutch heritage — and where the annual celebration of it takes place April 5-14.

Since 2010, the event has paid homage to this long-admired member of the lily family. Mayor Ted Becker, who chairs the celebration committee, is credited with originating the tulip tribute, which has grown into an “amazing, communitywide event,” according to Betsy Reamer, executive director of the Lewes Chamber of Commerce. An avid gardener and self-described “bulbs nut,” Becker observes that after a cold winter, “bulbs are a real breath of fresh air.” He should know. His combined gardens, at both his home and commercial properties, boast 8,000 bulbs.

Once the seed — or in this case, the bulb — for the celebration was planted, Lewes in Bloom volunteers rolled up their collective sleeves to transform the idea into reality, placing 4,000 bulbs in the ground the inaugural year. Since then, that number has grown to more than 20,000 tulip and other spring bulbs, planted throughout the city’s parks and other public areas and around historic landmarks.


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