What often starts as a mere whisper of a thought has the power to lead to a roar of change.
Lida Rogers, a biology teacher at a Holland, Michigan, high school thought there needed to be a way of uniting the students and celebrating the heritage of the community. So, she shared her thoughts at a Women’s Literary Club meeting: “Let’s plant tulips!” --So they did. Over one hundred thousand bulbs were planted throughout the city in the fall of 1928. The following spring was abloom with color.
Her idea stemmed from the city’s founding a mere 80 years prior. It was here, on the banks of Lake Michigan that a small band of immigrants from the Netherlands settled in search of religious freedom and a better way of life. In time, the area grew to be a large Dutch community with roots still in existence today.
Rogers’ idea blossomed into the annual Tulip Time festival which celebrated its 90th anniversary this year. I had the opportunity to attend. It was an experience to remember!
With over 5 million tulip bulbs in bloom, one’s eyes are dancing with delight. Nature’s little masterpieces are everywhere. -- All varieties. All colors. All sizes. --- Simply amazing!
For a period of nine consecutive days, Holland puts on quite a show! This includes: daily parades, lectures, demonstrations, entertainment, exhibits, carnival rides, and contests. I did not want to miss a bit of this. Consequently, I made sure to include a sampling of nearly every aspect of this event.
Did you know: Tulips are not native to Holland? Instead, they are innate to Turkey! The Turkish term, “tulip” means “turban”. With a bit of imagination, you can understand why this icon of spring was given its name.
Another item often associated with Dutch heritage is the wooden shoe. They, too, were plentiful. A master carver was present to share his skill and discuss its historical past. In addition, artfully painted models were strategically placed throughout the city. Interspersed among the plentiful tulip beds of Klompen Garden were several pairs of oversized shoes each painted in detail by local artists.
You can only imagine how exhilarating it was to see over 700 dancers fill the streets and perform in unison while classic Dutch music was being shared over speakers. ---Each dancer adorned in a costume associated with a specific province of Netherlands. It was a visual feast of color and pattern.
Talent was plentiful in all forms. This included an exhibit of quilting art. The artists’ delicate handiwork, sense of color, and composition could easily be seen. Each unique. Each stunning in its own way.
Nestled within the city, you will find Windmill Island Gardens. While it is a bit of a tourist trap, it is also an enclave of all things “Dutch”, including: an actual windmill from the Netherlands, circa 1884. Although damaged by World War II, “De Zwaan” was allowed to leave the mother country for relocation and restoration in Michigan. In addition to this focal point of the gardens, there is a charming collection of gift shops, historical museums, a canal, and fields of the blooming celebrity. One is easily immersed in the Dutch culture.
A most memorable experience was that of attending the daily parade. Each has its own theme and cast of members. The “Kinderparade” was on the agenda for the day I was present. This celebrated the local schools and organizations associated with the community’s children. Hundreds of costumed children filled the streets marching to the cheers of their family and friends. Even the high school band performed in wooden shoes!
The air was thick with pride. Pride of being a part of something bigger than themselves. There was unity and a sense of heritage. It was truly exhilarating.
Perhaps it is this feeling I will remember long after the blossoms have faded. ---To think, it all came from a single idea to plant tulip bulbs.