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Community Roots: Selections from the Local Legacies Project
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Klompen dancer at Tulip Time
Klompen dancer at Tulip Time.

Holland Tulip Time Festival

Millions of tulips blooming in parks, gardens, and lanes are seen by visitors from all over the world each spring in the city of Holland. Originally imported from the Netherlands and planted for civic beautification in 1928, the tulips are now a major tourist attraction.

In response to the surge of annual visitors--more than one million--the May festival has become a celebration of Dutch traditions with three parades, 15 variety shows, arts and crafts displays, and the high kicking klompen dancers, who wear wooden shoes.

Since Holland was founded in 1848 by a group of religious dissenters from the Netherlands, the city has become diverse with many ethnic groups, but its Dutch heritage remains the most prevalent. The idea for the festival came from Lida Roger, a high school teacher, in 1927. She envisioned a day set aside for a celebration and suggested that tulips be planted as a civic beautification project. In 1928, the city council appropriated funds to purchase 100,000 tulip bulbs from the Netherlands. Bulbs were planted in city parks and spaces, and residents could purchase them for one cent a piece. Called Tulip Time, the one day celebration had become a nine-day festival by 1933. That same year, a high school gym teacher, Ethel Perry, trained twelve Dutch Villagers, later known as Klompen Dancers, to perform Dutch folk dances. By year 2000, the number of Klompen Dancers, who wear authentic Dutch costumes, had grown to more than 1,400 dancers with several mother/daughter partners.

Tulip Time Festival begins on the Thursday prior to Mother's Day. On the festival's first day and in "Dutch clean" tradition, the town crier, along with the city mayor and council, inspect the streets and declare them dirty, and order them scrubbed for the many visitors who are coming to the festival. A ceremonial scrubbing ensues, with hundreds of costumed townsfolk and the state governor taking to the streets with brushes and willow brooms, some carrying pails of water on shoulder yokes, along a two-mile parade route.

Documentation includes a legacy report, 19 slides, photographs, a booklet on klompen dancers, festival operation booklets; volunteer booklets; other festival instructions and training literature; programs, wooden shoes, a klompen costume, Dutch pottery, festival notecards, and a video.

Originally submitted by: Carl Levin, Senator.

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The Local Legacies project provides a "snapshot" of American Culture as it was expressed in spring of 2000. Consequently, it is not being updated with new or revised information with the exception of "Related Website" links.

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