Behind-the-Scenes of Tulip Time in Holland

From May 4-11, more than 500,000 people from around the world will travel to Holland, Michigan to experience the 2013 Tulip Time Festival. The festival features Dutch dance performances, concerts, theatre, food, parades and more – all of which take a lot of time and dedication to produce by a team of more than 800 people.

Gwen Auwerda, Executive Director of the festival, gives us a sneak peek at what goes into the making of Tulip Time.

In Holland, Michigan, it rained for 13 days in a row this month and the tulips are loving it! The town is being spruced up from a long winter and the Tulip Time Festival staff and interns are busy with the finishing touches on all the great events, entertainment and parades.

Here are just some of the many things that happen behind-the-scenes in Holland as we prepare for the festival.

Prepping Pigs-in-a-Blanket

500 dozen pigs-in-a-blanket – a traditional Dutch food – were made by a group of volunteers from First United Methodist Church.  “Pigs” as we call them are a sausage roll covered with pastry dough and served to thousands of visitors at Dutch Marketplaats lunch in our Civic Center.  This is quite a time honored tradition for the church.

Marching Band Practice

Thirty bands are practicing their marching skills and will be marching in the Saturday GMB Muziekparade, the longest parade in Michigan at 2.4 miles. The Columbia Central High School Golden Eagle Marching Band from Brooklyn, Michigan is anticipating its 69th year marching in the Tulip Time Festival GMB Muziekparade! Starting in 1941, this band has traveled nearly 300 miles round trip each year to participate in the Tulip Time Festival parades. Some of the group’s favorite memories of the Festival include the inconsistent weather conditions our lovely Lake Michigan provides each year, the thrill of the crowds’ response to the band’s performances and the seemingly timeless experience the festival provides. 

This year, May 11th is the day of the GMB Muziekparade, but also another important day in the lives of CCHS students: it’s Prom night! This important celebration of high school is not deterring the band from making its appearance at Tulip Time. Director Joe Folts lends this dedication to tradition and loyalty. He says that “Kids wouldn’t think of not going to the festival – it’s not a question, it’s a treasured tradition.”

Some band members are second generation marchers making participating even more important and special for the Golden Eagles.

Dutch Dance Rehearsals

Dutch Dancing is another signature event during the festival.  The dancers typically learn the dance in high school and can continue dancing as an “alumni dancer” after graduation.  This year, we have over 900 dancers who wear clothing representing the late 1800s and early 1900s.  Practices begin in January and the dancers spend 30 hours over the next 4 months learning the dance. This event is a visitor favorite and free! 

We couldn’t put together an internationally known flower festival without our beloved volunteers.  It takes over 800 volunteers over an 8 day period to help with trash pickup, ushering at the shows, set-up, deliver potted tulips to the venues around the city, assist with the Tulip Time run, Queen’s Day Bike Criterium and the three parades.  It is because of the dedication of these volunteers that our city can invite over 500,000 guests to Join the Dance!  We hope to see you in beautiful Holland for the 84th Tulip Time Festival.

Gwen Auwerda is the Executive Director of the Tulip Time Festival in Holland.

Are you heading to Tulip Time this year? Share with us below!

Tulip Time in Pure Michigan

The Tulip Time Festival, taking place from May 5 – 12 in Holland, is a celebration of Dutch heritage and culture. Today, Gwen Auwerda, Executive Director of the festival, answers some of our questions about this fun event.

Q: How did the Tulip Time Festival start and why did it start in Holland?
A: Lida Rogers, a Holland High School biology teacher, had an idea in 1929 to beautify the city.  Implemented by the city of Holland and Mayor Earnest Brooks, the city purchased 100,000 imported bulbs from the Netherlands and planted them in the parks and along the street curbs.  Lida’s idea was to have one day set aside every years as a “tulip day.”  When the tulips bloomed in 1929 and Tulip Time was first announced to the world, the response was overwhelming.  Thousands of tourists visited the city during an eight-day period, this date chosen because the tulips would be in full bloom.  Over the years the festival has grown in attendance with over 500,000 visitors each year and 6 million tulips planted in the city, parks and local attractions.

Q: How many people attend the Festival and how far do people travel?
A: Attendance is over 500,000 visitors during the Festival and in 2011, visitors from over 40 countries were represented.

Q: What sorts of activities are planned for the festival?
A: Dutch Dancing is a highlight for guests.  The Netherlands is divided into 12 provinces, seven of which are represented in costume by the dancers during the festival.  In general, the clothing represents the late 1800s and early 1900s.  Over 900 dancers can be seen daily in their traditional dress.

We have 3 signature parades with the largest parade being the Saturday Muziekparade (Music Parade) with approximately 30 bands participating.

Community art & culture organizations provide a variety of evening events showcasing their talent.  Also included in the evening shows are national entertainment acts.  Additionally, as part of the festival we have fireworks, art & craft fair, Kinderplaats – our children’s festival, Tulip City Tours – a 70 minute guided tour of the local area and the Tulip Time Run.

Q: Are there any activities new for this year’s festival?
A: New for 2012 – Modern Delftware Art Class, Family Rest Area, QuikTrip Parking Shuttle, Bier Tuin – our Dutch Beer Garden, and a text to vote for the Volksparade on Wednesday for your favorite float and a text to vote on Saturday’s Muziekparade for your favorite band.

Q: How does the festival focus on Holland’s Dutch heritage?
A: Our focus on Dutch heritage can be experienced at the  Dutch Marktplaats – a place where you can experience the tastes, sights, sounds and crafts of 19th century Holland.  Dutch food, dancing, crafts, costumes and shopping all in one place. 

Q: Do you have any tips for people that want to grow their own tulips?
A: Tulip bulbs are planted in the fall before the ground freezes and they bloom in the spring.  They can withstand very cool temperatures and even snow after they have begun to pop out of the ground in the spring.  They are a very hearty flower.  The blooms last approximately 21 days and come in early, mid and late blooming varieties.

Q: Where can people go to learn more about the festival?
A: tuliptime.com is the website for the Holland Tulip Time Festival.  The schedule of events, map of the tulip lanes, shows and ticket purchases can all be found on our website.

Gwen Auwerda is Executive Director of the Tulip Time Festival.