Tulip festival kicks off summer season

Summer brings out the shorts, flip-flops, suntan lotion…and festival season.

It seems almost every community – large and small – loves to party with festivals based on history, food, and ethnicity.

We kicked off our summer festival going with a trip to northwest Iowa. Orange City is home to the Tulip festival. The 3-day event celebrates the Dutch heritage of the region. Lisa saw an ad in the Omaha newspaper’s summer festival preview and suggested we check it out. Danish Windmill in Orange City, IA

The funny thing about this season’s Tulip Festival is that there were no tulips to fest with. The flowers had bloomed and died off early this year because of the mild winter and warm spring. They actually flew in tulips from around the country for the festival’s flower show.

Most events were free, but some charged admission. We really were not interested in paying $4-$5 to see quilts or old cars. Most of the events we go to in other communities have these on display at no cost.

Plus, we were really there to take in the cultural events. There were lots of these – volksparade, mode (parade of traditional costumes/clothing) and dancing.

Traditional dutch dancing

Street Parade during Tulip Festival in Orange City, IA

The festival had a straatmaarkt (street vendors/concession stands). They advertised a show cobbler was not as impressive as one might think. I expected to see a shoe being made from a block of wood. I may have had too high of expectations because I would imagine taking a block of wood and carving and drilling a wooden shoe would be time consuming. So, I had that going for me.

Straatmarkt in Orange City, IA

He did demonstrate some carving and showed people various phases of the wooden shoe. It ended up being a photo opp that was not as bad as I thought it was going to be, I guess.

Woodworking demonstration

We tried a Dutch treat called poffertjes. It was basically small pancakes with sugar powder. Delicious!!!!!


A group of singers rode bikes up and down the main street, stopping to sing to people standing nearby. The group’s leader provided backdrops on each song and the group sang them well. They also encouraged audience participation with a couple of songs.


The mode – or costume parade – displayed traditional clothing worn in each of Holland’s provinces. From babies to senior citizens, residents marched down Main Street , showing off the traditional clothing.

Dances were intertwined with the parade. Adults and children performed traditional dances. High school kids demonstrated a “snake” dance. This started during spring, following long cold winters, when the kids would get together and run down the street, crisscrossing like a snake slithering. Then, they stopped and performed a couple of traditional dances.

One of the most fun events to watch was the street scrubbing. The town council walked the street with the Burrgermeister. They declared it “was not clean enough” for the festival queen to travel on. Soooooo, a bunch of young boys and men walked the street with water buckets, stopping at planted water tanks to fill buckets and dump the water on the street. Funny thing, though, is that the water ended up being dumped on each other mostly.

Once the fun and games of watering the street were done, youngsters and older women swept the street clean with push brooms. It was fun watching the little kids try to push brooms and not hit their moms and others.

Once the parade started, it was fun to watch. They had more than 50 entrants. The marching bands were pretty good. The Orange City high school band was amazing to watch. They had more than 100 kids in the band. The band has been asked to march in the Tournament of Roses Jan. 1, 2013. It is their second request in 30 years. The band actually wears wooden shoes as they march.

Marching Band

The school system must take a lot of pride in its music program. The junior high band was large, and almost as good as the high school band. The sixth grade band (yes, they have a sixth grade marching band) was better than a lot of high school bands I have heard.

The parade had a ton of floats – the queen and her court, grand marshal, businesses. One of my favorites was the boy trying to stop the leak in the dike with his thumb.

The Boy Who Held Back the Sea

Overall, it was a fun experience. We saw windmills. LOL. Plenty of them. The city park was neat – a lot of windmills and flower beds.

I would be tempted to go again. Hopefully, they will have their tulips next time.

Now, on to the food festivals, music festivals and art fairs.