Since 1929, the Tulip Time Festival in Holland, Michigan has celebrated its Dutch roots with an annual citywide garden of six million flowers, give or take. The massive tulip display is the showpiece of the two-week fest, but there are also concerts, art exhibits, and—after a thorough street scrubbing by a volunteer corps of authentically costumed Dutch cleansers—three parades showcasing Netherlander culture. Three highlights for the coming weekend, all in Centennial Park at 10th Street and Central Avenue.:
- Hard shoes, well filled
There’s more than fancy footwork to enjoy as corps of wooden-shoed performers take the stage for traditional Dutch folk dances. The 1,300 “Klompen Dancers” wear the traditional 19th- and early 20th-century dress of eight Dutch provinces. Each ensemble is hand sewn (with patterns only available from the Tulip Time executives) and has to pass inspection for historical and geographical accuracy before it can appear in performance. (FYI: The dancers’ ankles aren’t really freakishly thick. They all wear several pairs of thick socks so they can move comfortably in those wooden shoes.) Performances are at 1 and 3 p.m. on Friday, May 6th; 10 a.m., noon, and 2 and 4 p.m. on Saturday, May 7th’; and 1:30, 2, 3, and 4 p.m. on Sunday, May 8th, in Centennial Park.
- Petal power
Arguably the Midwest’s showiest community garden, the fest’s flowers are spread over more than six miles of beds. The first Tulip Fest in 1929 was comparatively paltry: A mere 100,000 bulbs bloomed. Every one of this year’s roughly six million bulbs was imported from Holland in Europe. Tulip Trolleys provide guided tours of the flora, complete with Dutch-costumed guides providing commentary. The trolley trips last about 75 minutes and run every half hour Saturday and Sunday, leaving from Centennial Park. Tickets are $14 for adults, $6 for children age 5 to 12. (And don’t even think about picking the tulips. There’s a $50 fine for lifting so much as a petal from one of the stems.)
- Arts and Quilts
More than 200 exhibitors will show their work at a juried art fair Saturday and Sunday in Centennial Park. On Saturday, more than 90 handmade quilts and wall hangings, crafted by local artisans, will be exhibited at the Holland Arts Council (150 E. 8th Street). Admission is $5.
GO Tulip Time in Holland, Michigan; 800-822-2770, tuliptime.com.
Where to stay: For the past 66 years, Holland residents have been opening their homes and cottages to guests during Tulip Time. All accommodations are inspected and located within 15 minutes of downtown Holland. Rates for the guest homes, which sleep up to 9, start at $30 per person a night. Rates for the cottages range from $150 to $350. For more information, call Joan Vos at 800-822-2770 ext. 104, or go to tuliptime.com/guest-homes-and-cottages.
Where to eat: For treats in keeping with culture of the Netherlands, head for the deBoer Bakkerij & Dutch Bros. Restaurant (360 Douglas Ave., 616-396-BAKE, deboerbakery.com), where fourth-generation baker Jakob deBoer and his sons serve up croquettes, gouda, and klompen cakes as well as plenty of specials prepared in a Dutch oven. For locally brewed beer and a menu of hearty pub fare, try the New Holland Brewing Company Restaurant and Pub (66 E. 8th St., 616-355-6422, newhollandbrew.com).