I decided to write this article after being inspired by a small unit of Veterans of Vietnam War that participated in the Meijer Muziekparade. It was a last day of Tulips Time Festival with a Meijer Muziekparade.
The Orchestra Parade (or Muziekparade) in Holland made a remarkable impression on me and my friends even more than our visit to the Nelis’ Dutch Village and Windmill Island in Holland. Having lived in large cities, perhaps we had come to expect more entertainment than what was offered to tourists; but still, we had a great time and enjoyed every moment while visiting the imitation of the Dutch Village Netherlands and the Authentic Windmill.
We walked through a row of reproduction old-style Dutch storefronts, such as you would see in Amsterdam, and a replica of Dutch bridge over a canal, leading to the tulip field and the real windmill. A guided windmill tour is offered during the Tulip Festival. Surprisingly, we had to wait in line for some time to be able to enter the “De Zwaan,” a 248-year-old working Dutch windmill. The windmill's name is Dutch for “The Swan” or “Graceful Bird.” It is the only authentic, working Dutch windmill in the United States.
The windmill tour was guided by a local elderly woman dressed in a Dutch costume. Her description captivated our attention. Per agreement, Windmill Island still runs the windmill at least one day per year and still grinds flour and bags with flour selling out quickly.
In addition, we visited a Posthouse museum (a replica of a fourteenth-century wayside inn), where we saw a reproduction of the Dutch house room. Windmill Island features beautiful gardens with approximately 150,000 tulips in bloom, including even “Queen Night,” a black tulip. We observed a very fine diorama of a Dutch village located in one of the storefronts.
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.
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.
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.
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.
However, The Dutch Village Theme was the main purpose and destination of our trip to Tulip Times. On the way from Muziekparade to the Nelis' Dutch Village through Holland, I noticed numerous different colors of tulips planted along streets by the city or by residents. It was amazing to see thousands of flowers from both sides of streets. The city and residents compassionately plant 500, 000 tulips every year not only to attract tourists, but also to beautify their area for themselves as well.
The Nelis' Dutch Village Theme met us with sun and twelve provincial flags from the Netherlands flanking the walk to the people waiting to enter a spectacular Carillon 25-Bell Tower, a lovely entrance to the replica of Dutch Village.
My first impression of the Dutch village was a working water wheel, used to power equipment to grind grain or saw wood, and life-sized statues scattered thought the village. The statues represent ordinary people in ordinary walks of life, from a baker to a fisherman. They were handcrafted in cement by local artist Joyce Sweers, attracting visitors’ attention.
Our tour began from the reproduction of the Weighhouse in Qudewater, NL. Some people were brave enough to be tested and possibly to be found guilty of practicing witchcraft. It was fun to see how some people took this entertainment very seriously. One woman was even disputing the accuracy of her weight.
We had the opportunity to observe a farmhouse cheese-making operation using old world equipment, from cow's milk to finished cheese wheel, as well as wooden shoe carving and blue delft making with antique, automated machinery. Watching and admiring these ancient crafts kept us busy, and the demonstrations of old techniques was capturing. It truly felt as if we had somehow returned to everyday life in old Dutch times.
The Nelis' Dutch Village offered attractions and activities to the families with kids too. First, we visited a Frisian Farmhouse and Barn where there was a demonstration of typical Dutch family life. Most animals were outside, thanks to the nice weather. At the Petting Zoo, kids could take goats for a walk. We enjoyed watching small kids having a good time with their parents.
Authentic Dutch architecture, picturesque walks, canals, and flowering gardens reminded me of my European trips. Smaller patches of tulips that spread throughout the ground of this doll village offered some kind of charm to the village. Different colors, sizes, and types of tulips were amazing. Here, I learn the name of black tulips because each plot of tulips is identified by numbered stakes. The “Queen Night” is a perfect name for this beauty. I took lot pictures of these beautiful flowers.
We concluded our trip by attending the Dutch Folk Dance Performance. I was completely relaxed watching six enthusiastic young dancers dressed in costumes of the Netherlands and performing four folk dances to the tunes of the Golden Angel Street Organ.
We left Holland, Michigan with a sense of appreciation for the small Dutch community for the preservation of their European old culture and traditions – not only for descendants, but also for the enjoyment of all of us living in the multicultural society. It was not easy to maintain these traditions, but they made it happen, and now many other ethnic groups have opportunity to learn a way of keeping and teaching their own history and culture to their children.
© Rachel Madorsky
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