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Writing Activity 4 - Description Essay
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Write an essay, 800 -1000 words in length, that describes a public festival and analyzes what that festival tells about the community it represents. Use MLA formatting.

Festivals and other large public events inform much about the communities that host them. They may be small, local observances, or huge, internationally acclaimed spectacles. Festivals can tell of specific events, or include general activities, and give insight into the history, economics, skills, culture, creativity and hopes of a society. They are often vibrant, moving, and filled with sensory delights. They can be bright, loud, and raucous, more subdued, calm, or gentle, or they can even combine various moods according to each specific activity. In general, festivals celebrate and share the people, places, and things that give meaning to a community. Throughout time and in virtually every place, societies have valued their festivals as displays of community values and as often well-needed breaks from the mundane lives of daily existence.


The Ottawa Tulip Festival

Festivals are not only fun to observe and participate in, but they also give valuable insight into the values and customs of any community. They can give an outsider a quick glimpse into the societies they represent, but they are also worth analyzing in some detail. For example, the annual spring Tulip Festival in Ottawa shows that people in the national capital appreciate the glorious blooms of millions of multi-coloured tulips, which makes sense after a typically long, dreary winter. However, did you know that this festival also marks an important historical act, when Canada sheltered the royal family of the Netherlands during the Second World War? Canadians were also the main liberators of the Netherlands at the end of the War, and are still greeted enthusiastically when they visit. In 1945, Queen Juliana of the Netherlands presented 100,000 tulips to Canada in gratitude for the safety, help, and peace that this country represents. By 1953 the display had evolved into an annual festival, and now Ottawa's Tulip Festival has grown to be the world's largest Tulip Festival. It attracts millions of people from around the world, including some very famous guests. This festival has earned Ottawa the right to call itself "The Tulip Capital of North America".

Such an understanding of the roots and purposes of this bright festival helps to explain Ottawa's love of its tulips – extended to all Canadians - and how the annual event reflects Canada's historical place. It represents Canada's traditional peace-keeping and people-assisting role in world affairs, and explains this sense of purpose. Additionally, Canada and The Netherlands have maintained warm relationships, evident in the many immigrants from there that Canada has welcomed, and the naming of the bond as "The Friendship that Flowered". With such further detail and analysis, you can see that each of the bright blooms in Ottawa's Tulip Festival represents not only a cheery relief from winter, but an enduring and valuable international relationship.

If you were to attend the May festival, you could challenge all of your senses, seeing the 90 beds of colourful tulips on display and perhaps gently touching their velvety petals; listening to a wide variety of music played throughout the tulip beds; hearing differing sounds at the formal ball - or not in its 'silent' auction'; smelling and tasting food from various embassies; enjoying the delight of taking children to the International Pavilion to learn of crafts and activities from other countries; or even feeling the thrill of attending an event hosted by a celebrity and the vibrations of festive participants. (Information from and related sites.)

This is just one of the most famous festivals in Canada, and there are many others, in almost every community and throughout the year. Is there a particular public festival that is significant to you? Perhaps your hometown hosts one that you enjoy, you remember one that you have attended, or even just know of a festival you would like to attend. When and where is it? Can you analyze how it is a worthwhile festival by describing its purpose, including who attends, why, as well as what specifically makes it special? Can you describe its sensory intensity through specific and accurate impressions via each of the senses? A festival may appear to be focused on a particular sense - such as sight for the Tulip Festival or sound for a musical festival - but it is also likely to appeal to touch, smell, taste (think of the scrumptious festive treats), and, of course, emotion.

Focus on analyzing the meaning of the event by describing it through each of the senses. Go into as much detail as possible, giving ample and specific examples, and by using precise words and phrases, sensory imagery, and other writing devices. Use the tone of the interested but uninvolved observer, avoiding the use of the first person (I/we), although the rhetorical 'you', as you have found it here, is acceptable.

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