There's no better time to visit Holland, Michigan than in early May for the annual Tulip Time Festival which lasts 8 days. Each year it draws thousands of visitors from around the world and by busloads from all over the United States. Hotels are booked solid within a 50-75 mile radius.
Can we say BUSY??
I took some vacation time and talked my husband into going this year since my brother and his wife would be in traditional Dutch costume and be part of the street scrubbing tradition of the festival (see pictures).
This year also marked the 80th anniversary of Tulip Time, a tradition of celebrating the Dutch heritage of the first Dutch settlers here in Holland, Michigan in 1847.
I had a map in hand of places to go, times of events, and a digital camera ready to click away at the millions of tulips planted in parks, gardens and along tulip lane. The festival has something for everyone and here's just brief description of our daily trips.
**Tulip Lane - you must drive along this marked route and look at the over 500, 000 tulips that have been planted by the city of Holland. It is so awesome.....my husband drove and I hung out of the car window snapping picture after picture.
**Headline Concerts - this year Bobby Vinton and The Oak Ridge Boys performed for their fans. This year there were 9 Music & Variety Shows to attend plus some Meal Shows that kept you entertained while having breakfast, lunch or dinner.
**Parades - there are three main parades.
The Volksparade on Wednesday. This follows the annual street scrubbing by hundreds of townfolk dressed in traditional costume of the different regions of the Netherlands (Holland). There's also Dutch dancing by hundreds of area high school students who have practiced for this event for months. To hear the clatter of the wooden shoes on the pavement as they dance was music to my ears and I've included a video for you to enjoy of the groups that performed in front of us. They stretch as far as the eye can see and is truly worth watching. The parade itself was about 1-1/2 hours long with so many bands I wondered if any had not been represented.
Kinderparade on Thursday. Here we were able to watch thousands of area school children dressed in Dutch costume. It was a sight to behold and one I would definitely go back for. Watching these children was truly the highlight of the day and the camera was on constant click mode!
Muziekparade on Saturday, the last day of the festival. This grand finale parade has many of the bands from the Volksparade plus more from surrounding states. Local celebrities and politicians from Holland and the State of Michigan rode by in cars or walked the route in wooden shoes. Dutch dancers entertained all of us along the 2.4 miles of this parade. I did spot a few broken wooden shoes and one of the giant helium balloons got stuck to a tree before it made it to our location.
**Arts and Craft Fair, Fireworks, Carnival for the kids, a Quilt Show, Tulip Trolley Tours throughout the festival, Dutch singing and story telling in the parks.
**Dutch Marktplaats - held in the Civic Center this gives you an opportunity to try out Dutch food, arts & crafts, souvineers, lace, klompen dancers and just a place to sit and take a load of your feet for a few minutes while listening to music or watching Dutch dancers. If you're Dutch I will point out that you've probably seen or own what is here, eat at home what is served, but it was fun to walk through here.
**Dutch Dancers - it would be hard to miss any of these groups as they perform all over town at different locations and times.
I have to say the people were all very friendly, always willing to pose for pictures in their costume and some telling us they have been doing this for over 30 years and keeping the tradition alive with their children and grandchildren.
Important note here on parade seating. Bring folding chairs and blankets with you. For the Volksparade and Kinderparade you can set these up no earlier than 6 am the morning of the parade. No one touches or moves anything!!! For the Muzieksparade on Saturday you can claim your spot Friday night after 9pm. My SIL's family did this for us and we had front row seats for all the activity. There is also bleacher seating set up along the parade route but you do need to pay to sit here.
There are many places around the US with Tulip Time Festivals but the one in Holland was the first and continues to be very popular. I would highly recommend it to everyone and if you're here visiting next year you might spot me, my husband and daughters in the street scrubbing event in town. We have our costumes ordered!!!
Update On Mar 12, 2010: The Tulip Festival dates for this year are May 1 through May 8. Our entire family will be participating in the street scrubbing and parade so come on down if you're in the area.
Update On May 06, 2010: It was street cleaning time again yesterday at Holland's Tulip Time festival. It was even more fun participating than watching and we'll be doing it again next year. I've included a couple of new pictures, one of our daughter waiting patiently to clean the streets and the other of my husband and brother getting ready to carry their water pails for the parade.