We were lucky to be in Holland, Michigan this year to participate in the celebration of eightieth anniversary of the Tulip Time Festival Parade with over 500,000 people in attendance. It was named “Best Small Town Festival” by Readers Digest, listed among the “Top 100 Events in North America” by ABA, and featured in the book Amazing Places to Go in North America.
This year, the first Tulip Time parade (Volksparade) was held on May 6, the second (Kinderparade) on May 7, and last (Muziekparade, which we visited) on May 9.
The idea to adopt the tulip as the official flower of Holland and celebrate it with a festival was born at one of the Woman’s Literary Club meeting in 1927 following a suggestion by Miss Lida Rogers, a biology teacher at Holland High School. The next year, the City Council purchased 100,000 tulip bulbs from the Netherlands and planted them in city parks and other areas.
In the spring of 1929, thousands of tulips bloomed, and the annual festival was born. In the mid 1930s, Tulip Time already was nationally known. Many famous names like Dorothy Lamour, Pat O’Brien, Christina Aguilera, Verve Pipe, Jars of Clay, and George Raft participated at the festival.
After World War II, Tulip Time continues to attract thousands of tourists every year. In 1947, the Netherlands showed appreciation to the Holland community, which provided aid to their country after the war. The people of Amsterdam presented to Holland a working street organ called “Car Frei Breda,” which today entertains Windmill Island visitors.
In that same year began a long tradition of a visit from the governor of Michigan, who leads the street scrubbing ceremonies. Holland celebrates its Dutch heritage not only with the Tulip Festival, but also with over six million tulips as well. Also, in 1976 Holland received impressive publicity by participating in the Tournament of Roses Parade.
Despite poor weather conditions, this year’s Muziekparade started almost on time. I was amazed with the participation of numerous marching units – around 60. Even though Holland, Michigan is not a hugely populated community (population around 35,000 residents), the Meijer Muziekparade could be compared with parades of large cities from my point of view.
The parade was so well organized that it captured attention of bystanders sitting and staying along street. It was really a spectacular parade. Units represented numerous organizations, schools, bands, dancing clubs, wagons, small and large businesses, different clubs, or social groups.
There were antique automobiles followed by horses, fire department, police, military academy, Michigan Air National Guard, Holland Hockey Association, United States Marine Corps band, and others. Tulips were displayed on most of the cars and trucks and carried in bouquets by participants.
Some of the parade participants included US Senator Carl Levin, US Representative Pete Hoekstra, State Senators Wayne Kuipers and Patricia Birkholz, and Secretary of State Terry Lynn Land, as well as other notables. Some of came from different states of the USA to participate in the Meijer Muziekparade, and all appeared honored to participate.
However, some of the most unforgettable participants who were hailed by the crowds may not even be known by name. While taking pictures, I heard from distance a loud applause – louder than any applause up to that time. Soon, I noticed a small group in military uniform. It was the Vietnam Veterans of America, Chapter 73, presented by seven marching men and one in a wheelchair. The spectators showered them with enthusiastic applause.
The time flew by before we noticed we’d been watching almost two hours and couldn’t see the end of the remarkable colorful parade. It was a hard decision for us to leave for Nelis' Dutch Village, but I have numerous lovely photos to remind me of the Tulip Time Fest for many years to come.
History of the Tulip.
The Netherlands was not the country to grow the tulip. The Turks were cultivating tulips in 1,000 AD, but their source was the mountainous region of central Asia that borders Russia and China. In 1593, botanist Carolus Clusius discovered tulips growing in Vienna and began cultivating them in the Netherlands. From that moment, the Dutch tulip history began. A portion of Clusius’ collection was stolen by Dutchmen and cultivated for sale. Despite many challenges, the Dutch have managed to maintain a commercial devotion to the tulip. Today, the Netherlands produces three billion tulip bulbs each year, two billion of which are exported. The US is the top importer of tulip bulbs.