Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Tulips Are Blooming...

Hello! It's the month of May and around here that means the very popular local festival honoring the tulip! Thousands are planted every fall and are now blooming more or less on schedule just in time for the Tulip Time festival this year (there are have unfortunate years in which the tulips were all done blooming before the festival began - locals called it the "Stem Festival" when that happened). 

Signs like this one direct visitors to the various tulip-lined streets:

And once you begin your travels down a tulip lane - or at least the ones that are boulevards - this is what you'll see. The plantings are continuous for blocks and blocks per tulip lane:

Notice the red object in the far left background of the photo? That's a tour bus from Minnesota turning onto the street. The festival gets tour buses from all over the region as well as visitors on their own. The average speed limit of these travelers on this tulip lane has been about 2 miles an hour as people roll down their windows and hold out their cameras to take photos. 

The tulip festival features three parades, the first of which was today. It was the Volks (People's) Parade - called that because anyone in a Dutch-style folk costume can march at the beginning of the parade with brooms, buckets of water and the like to sweep and scrub the parade route street clean (just for show, of course; they don't really clean it!) Here's an example:

The rest of the parade is like parades everywhere else: marching bands, floats, and various dignitaries. It's traditional that the governor of Michigan will march in the Volksparade and yes, Rick Snyder, who took office in January, was there. He, like previous governors wore a traditional Dutch folk costume.

I mentioned marching bands. Yes, they're a staple of parades everywhere, but how many march in footwear like this?

In case you can't tell, those are wooden shoes on the feet of the marching band from the local high school. Their signature song for the festival parades is "Tip-toe Through The Tulips" and as you can see in the above photo, they are performing a side dip; they do this at frequent intervals of the chorus. Imagine doing all that - playing an instrument, marching in wooden shoes, and doing that dip countless times during each parade - wow. They always get a lot of applause, and deserve it indeed!

Another extremely popular event at the festival is Dutch dancing, also known as klompen dancing ("klompen" being the name of the wooden shoes worn by the dancers). The dancing routines are not really authentic to the Netherlands, but the costumes are - they are based on Dutch folk dress and have been researched for authenticity. The people running the festival take the Dutch dancing costumes VERY seriously - only certain patterns and fabrics can be used (a local fabric store stocks these) and when finished, the costumes are inspected for correctness. For those not up to the sewing challenge, a list of approved seamstresses is offered. 

(The costumes worn by the "street scrubbers" at the beginning of the Volksparade don't have to be inspected, by the way). 

And who does Dutch dancing? The bulk of the dancers are students from local high schools, but there are also two sets of adult dancers: alumni, those who had done Dutch dance when they were in high school, and community, those adults who hadn't done Dutch dance while in high school (because of doing other things like spring sports or having lived elsewhere then). 

We like to watch the Dutch dancers at the local city park - actually they dance in the streets surrounding the park, making for a big rectangle of dancers the whole way around. And here is a team from one of the local high schools:

It used to be that only girls could do Dutch dancing, and even though boys are now allowed, there are still more girls on the Dutch dance teams, so some of them get men's costumes made. Doesn't seem that anyone minds this - in face, I think at least of the girls would rather dress like the men (in a related note, our previous governor was a woman, and although she wore a woman's costume the first time she appeared in the Volksparade,  she wore a man's costume in subsequent years. This made sense, as her usual style was dress pants instead of dresses or skirts).

In an amusing portion of the dance routine, the women scold the men, though I don't know what they're supposed to be scolding them about:

That's all for now! Hope you enjoyed some of the sights from the festival!


  1. Indeed, those thousands of tulips have done just that!

  2. As a song I learned in elementary school says: "Polish the cobblestones! Starch your Dutch cap! Thousands of tulips put us on the map!"

  3. Indeed there are thousands of tulips blooming right now!