I grew up in Holland Michigan, which every year celebrates its Dutch heritage with a week-long Tulip Time festival complete with Klompen Dancing and parades and boatloads of tulips. There are other similar tulip festivals held in Dutch communities around the U.S. (I know of at least two others in Pella, Iowa and Lynden, Washington), but as far as Holland is concerned its tulip festival is the biggest and best. There’s definitely plenty of Dutch Pride here. When asked their ethnicity on forms and surveys, the people here check “other” and write in “Dutch-American.”
Despite the fact that I am technically all-Dutch (all of my great-grandparents were born in the Netherlands) I used to really hate Tulip Time as a teenager. The tourists and traffic drove me nuts, and the high school Klompen dancing group which had almost 100% participation from the female student population at my high school seemed to me solid evidence that my classmates had been completely brainwashed with the “if you ain’t Dutch you ain’t much” mantra. As a child though, I happily walked in the Kinderparade (required for school each year) and I wore several “Dutch Costumes” which my mom or other family members had made by hand.
Since we’re just in town for just a couple months I’ve decided to overlook the elements of Tulip Time that are a little bizarre (costumes of questionable historical accuracy? why exactly are all of the Klompen dancers girls even though half are dressed as boys? does anyone here even speak Dutch anymore?) and embrace the thing for what it is: a chance to entertain my children. So last week we tromped downtown and got Elephant Ears and rode on the ferris wheel and the carousel. Wednesday we took them to the Volksparade, one of three parades which happens during Tulip Time:
Lucky for us there was also a little Klompen dancing beforehand. Elliot got really excited when someone’s wooden shoe cracked and flew off.
I felt the Holland Experience would not be complete without some good pictures of my kids lookin’ Dutch. I originally intended to make them both “Dutch Costumes” but ran out of time and ended up just making one for Elliot. I put those words in quotations even though when someone in Holland (MI) says “Dutch Costume” they don’t think of it in quotations at all; these costumes are SO prevalent here, and have been for such a long time, that historical accuracy doesn’t really matter anymore at all. No matter what their origins back in the Netherlands, they’ve assumed a whole new Michigan-based identity as a symbol of Dutch-ness. Which in and of itself is pretty awesome. Anyway, Elliot’s costume is supposed to be representative of the Dutch province town (thanks Kim for the correction!) of Volendam:
I borrowed a costume for Clementine and got some pictures of the kids in their Dutchy garb (including the ones shown at the top of this post):
at the parade, fading in the heat.
The pattern for this costume came from Fields Fabrics in Holland, which prides itself in providing the area with the patterns and fabrics to make a variety of these costumes. Although I tore my hair out a few times trying to decipher the cryptic instructions and I accidentally sewed the whole thing with a 1/2″ seam allowance instead of the 5/8″ it was supposed to have, I’m pretty proud of this project. He looks like a damn fine little Dutch Boy. I’m not sure it will get worn by Elliot again but there are plenty of little boys in our family who will probably pass this along over the next few years.
I leave you with this picture, my very favorite:
Has anyone else out there been to Tulip Time? And I’m curious, does this seem completely strange/hilarious to everyone else?