A Prairie Oasis in a Land of Plenty
The idea of a Lily Festival first bloomed in 1996 when Eleanor Nicholson and Barrie Strohman presented their idea to Neepawa town council. Eleanor and Barrie explained that many different varieties of lilies are grown locally, that many new varieties had been developed locally and named. Town council was very enthusiastic and agreed that it would be a benefit to promote the lily theme in Neepawa and surrounding area as a tourist attraction. With the encouragement of council, Nicholson and Strohman presented their idea to other organizations and groups throughout the community. These presentations resulted in the formation of the Neepawa & Area Lily Festival Committee, which held its first meeting June 24th, 1996. The first thing the committee did was to develop a mission statement. It read: To put the town of Neepawa on the map as the world lily capital and to organize an annual lily festival during the third week in July, focusing on lilies, music, food and fun. Those key elements continue to thrive at Neepawa's Lily Festival.
In 1996 the third week in July the forerunner of the Lily Festival was staged. Lily blossoms and information cards were placed in the businesses throughout the town. The committee began promoting the development of lily beds on both public and private properties. The Lily logo on the letterhead was chosen through a contest and was adopted as the official logo in May of 1997.
In 1997 the first annual lily festival was held with a Lily Golf Tournament, Lily flower show, bus tours, breakfast among the lilies, entertainment events and a barbecue. At the first festival there were approximately 6000 people in attendance.
In 1998 it was determined that there were over 1500 named varieties of lilies being grown in Neepawa and area, more varieties than any where else in the world, thus Neepawa was declared "The World Lily Capital" by way of resolution by the Town of Neepawa Council. Note: in 2004 there are now over 2,000 named varieties of lilies in and around Neepawa..
The name "Neepawa & Area Lily Festival" was officially registered in February of 2000 with incorporation being completed in March of 2000. In October of 2001 the Logo was officially trademark certified.
The Neepawa & Area Lily Festival is organized each year by a group of dedicated volunteers that sit on the Lily Festival Committee. The committee is structured into three main departments: Lily Development, Marketing, and Festival Events. Each department has a director who then works with subcommittees in their department. Lily Festival is organized by a group of 20 executive volunteers in the months preceding the festival. During the actual festival week there are approximately 300 volunteers who help to make the festival a reality.
The Neepawa & Area Lily Festival is a non profit organization with proceeds being used for festival events and for beautification of the Town of Neepawa. Five large lily parks have been developed in the town and each year the lily festival partners with the Town of Neepawa to enter the Communities in Bloom competition. In 2003 Neepawa won the National CIB award
From it's humble beginnings in 1996 the Neepawa & Area Lily Festival has grown to attracting between 11,000 to 12,000 people annually from around the world to Neepawa, Manitoba,
THE WORLD LILY CAPITAL.