The city of Boulder makes a large and colorful investment in its future every October.

Fifteen thousand tulip bulbs are purchased and imported from Holland and planted along Pearl Street Mall downtown. Those perky flowers pop up with a happy vengeance come spring, usually right in time for the Tulip Fairy and Elf Festival, though some years it’s a little earlier or later.

The free family-friendly event is Sunday in the 1300 block of the Mall.

“We’re just waiting for Mother Nature to give us a hand,” said Anna Salim, Downtown Boulder Partnership’s vice president of events and membership. “They’re starting to peek up. It varies a little bit depending on the year. I’m a little nervous this year. It was a cold, late winter, but sometimes they surprise us.”

The tulip tradition started in the late 1970s, when Boulder’s then sister city, Meppel, Holland, sent 5,000 bulbs every year to be planted along the Mall. Though the annual gift was discontinued at some point, the flowers were so popular with Boulder residents that the city decided to keep it going.

While the tulips serve as the star attraction, folks also can enjoy activities for kids and the creative costumes of attendees, children and adults alike. Salim likens it to “Halloween in the springtime.”

The day will feature plenty of performances: “Alice in Wonderland” by Boulder Performing Arts, rock ‘n’ roll for kids by The Rock and Roll Playhouse, Denver-based singer songwriter Emelise and “Waking the Bear” by musical storytellers Jeff and Paige.

Foam-sword dueling, arts-and-crafts projects, face painting, nature activities, cookie decorating, food trucks and more will round out the day.

“It’s a nice way to experience Boulder and all that we are,” Salim said. “It’s such a uniquely Boulder tradition. It’s not something you see everyday. It says a lot about Boulder and the way we like to see ourselves as a community.”

JENNIFER MULSON, THE GAZETTE, 636-0270, JEN.MULSON@GAZETTE.COM

Contact the writer: 636-0270

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