Behind-the-Scenes of Tulip Time in Holland

From May 7-14, more than 500,000 people from around the world will travel to Holland, Michigan to experience the 2016 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 the staff and a team of more than 800 volunteers.

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

In Holland, Michigan, we’ve had a cool spring and the tulips love 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 area churches.  “Pigs” as we call them are a sausage roll covered with pastry dough and served to thousands of visitors at Dutch Marktplaats along with the largest selection of traditional Dutch food in the City of Holland.  This is quite a time honored tradition for the churches.

Marching Band Practice

All of the bands are practicing their marching skills for the Saturday GMB Muziekparade, the longest parade in Michigan at 2.4 miles. This year, May 14th is the day of the GMB Muziekparade. The parade will feature over 4,000 participants.

Dutch Dance Rehearsals

Dutch Dance 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 800 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, and the three parades.  It is because of the dedication of these volunteers that our city can host over 500,000 guests to Join the Dance!  We hope to see you in beautiful Holland for the 87th 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!

19 Things to do this Summer in Holland, Michigan!

Well-known for its Dutch history, Holland is historic yet hip. This unique place offers something for every personality.  Discover Holland put together a list of things that you need to experience before this summer is over.

19. Climb 230 steps to the top of Mt. Pisgah, a towering sand dune with stunning views of Lake Michigan, Lake Macatawa and Big Red Lighthouse.

18. Tour a 260 year-old historic windmill! “DeZwaan” is the only authentic, working, Dutch windmill in the United States! This gem is at the center of a 36-acre public park with manicured lawns, landscaped gardens, and a Dutch street organ. You can take a guided tour of this landmark structure, celebrating 50 years in Holland, Michigan!

DeZwaan Windmill. Photo Courtesy of Scott Mievogel.

DeZwaan Windmill. Photo Courtesy of Scott Mievogel.

17. Nelis’ Dutch Village – slide down a giant wooden shoe slide, kick up your heels at an authentic Dutch Dance lesson or get a birds’-eye view from the antique Ferris wheel. New in 2015 – make your own authentic Stroopwaffel at the Hungry Dutchman Café!

16. Learn how Holland’s breweries and distilleries are using Michigan-grown products to create their award-winning beers and spirits. Tour New Holland Brewing Company’s brewing and distilling facilities (Saturdays only), or Coppercraft Distillery (Wednesday-Saturday) for a farm-to-glass experience! A stop Warner Vineyards’ tasting room in downtown Holland will complete your tasting experience with samples of fine Michigan wines – or a wine slushie!

15. The Holland Farmers Market is the place to find the freshest local, seasonal produce, meats, cheeses and more! Visit Saturdays at 10am for the weekly Chef Series presentation or Wednesday mornings for free kids’ activities.

Holland Farmers Market - Photo Courtesy of Scott Meivogel.

Holland Farmers Market – Photo Courtesy of Scott Meivogel.

14. Thursday nights the streets of downtown Holland come alive with the Summer Street Performer Series, where you’ll find 8th Street packed with families enjoying more than 30 eclectic street performers, from mimes to musical acts to aerial acrobats!

13. Experience the lakeshore from two wheels – the Holland area has more than 155 miles of paved, bike paths for riders of all levels, as well as dedicated mountain biking trails. Is kicking back more your style? Take a ride on the Petal Cab, a pedi-cab service that offers tours of the Holland area.

12. Dine al fresco at Holland’s beautiful waterfront restaurants, (The Piper or Boatwerks), or view a stunning sunset from the 5th floor deck at CityVu Bistro, located in downtown’s CityFlats Hotel.

11.  Enjoy a summer sunset over Lake Macatawa during a Friday night concert at Kollen Park, where live music from high-energy regional acts brings the crowd to their feet!

10. Art in the Park is Holland’s annual fine arts and crafts fair in Centennial Park. The 46th annual fair on August 1 welcomes the lakeshore’s finest artists, potters and makers to showcase their wares in the heart of Holland. Local downtown galleries join the fun during the special gallery walk events Friday, July 31- Saturday August 1.

9. Savor the lakeshore, Michigan’s most agriculturally diverse region, with a u-pick experience at one of the area’s farms. Strawberries, blueberries, cherries, peaches and apples are all readily available in season.

8. Explore the trails at the Outdoor Discovery Center or DeGraaf Nature Center, where you’ll find educational nature experiences and good old-fashioned fun! Families will enjoy barrier-free fishing and trail access at the Outdoor Discovery Center, and enjoy events like Maple Sugar Days at DeGraaf.

7. The fun continues even as summer winds down – the Holland/Zeeland Truck Parade on Monday, September 7 begins in downtown Zeeland and ends at the Holland Civic Center with a chance to climb aboard the big rigs!

6. Shop ‘til you drop! Downtown Holland’s eclectic mix of retail boutiques means there’s something for everyone – and get ready to find a bargain during the annual Sidewalk Sales August 7 and 8!

Downtown Holland Shopping. Photo Courtesty of Scott Meivogel.

Downtown Holland Shopping. Photo Courtesty of Scott Meivogel.

5. Have a hands-on cooking experience at Fustinis Oil & Vinegar, where cooking classes focusing on seasonal ingredients invite you to taste and experience fresh-pressed olive oil and flavor-infused vinegars.

4. Pour a candle at Candle-ology, inside Moynihan Gallery! Create your own custom scent from more than 100 choices or make your own soy candle or custom-scented room diffuser, liquid soap or lotion!

3. Pick up a self-guided historic walking tour brochure at the Holland Visitors Bureau and wander through Holland’s quaint historic neighborhoods where you’ll learn about the early Dutch settlers and how their ingenuity shaped the lakeshore’s history. During the summer, the Holland Museum and Gazelle Sports offer guided walks on designated Fridays.

2. Take a dip in the “Big Lake”! The shimmering waters of Lake Michigan welcome you from Holland State Park, Tunnel Park or several other Holland-area beaches. You’ll find sugar-sand beaches with plenty of room for all, including an off-leash dog beach at Kirk Park.

1. Catch a sunset with your family! There’s no better memory-maker than spending an evening watching the sun sink into the water from the pier at Holland State Park or perched atop the dune at Tunnel Park.

5 Ways to Experience Europe in Holland, Michigan


Photo courtesy of Holland Area Convention & Visitors Bureau

You don’t need a passport to enjoy a true Dutch experience in Holland, Michigan! Immerse yourself in historic art and artifacts at the Holland Museum, tiptoe through the tulips in a city park, or kayak in the shadow of a 270-year-old working Dutch windmill.  Here are 5 favorite ways to experience historic and hip Holland without traveling overseas! 

5. History right here! Holland, Michigan was founded in 1847 by Dutch settlers, and you’ll find their stories woven into Holland’s rich historic fabric at the Holland Museum. A curated collection of Dutch history and artifacts tell the story of the immigrants and settlers who now call Holland home, while the 2nd floor Dutch Galleries showcase paintings by influential Dutch artists. The Cappon and Settlers Houses, restored homes of early Holland residents, depict contrasting lifestyles of our Dutch ancestors.


Photo courtesy of Holland Area Convention & Visitors Bureau

4. Windmill Island Gardens is home to DeZwaan Windmill, the only authentic working Dutch windmill in the United States. Stroll along the dikes, canals, and flower beds overflowing with more than 100,000 tulips. Tour
DeZwaan, and learn how our Dutch-certified miller grinds the local winter wheat into flour; enjoy performances of costumed-dancers in wooden shoes or take a spin on a hand-painted Dutch carousel.   2015 marks the 50th anniversary of DeZwaan in Holland, MI, and we’re celebrating with special events throughout the spring and summer.

3. “Klomping” in the streets! You won’t want to miss a performance by Holland’s famous “Dutch Dancers”! During the Tulip Time Festival over 1000 dancers hit the streets numerous times clad in authentic Dutch costumes and wooden “klompen” to entertain visitors and locals alike.  At Nelis’ Dutch Village, one of Holland’s popular Dutch attractions, you and your family can join in the fun and learn a few steps. And this year, during the Tulip Time festival, join the community at “Klomp the Record”, where we vie for the title of ‘Most People Dancing in Wooden Shoes at One Time’. More info here:

2. The food! Savor a taste of the Netherlands with delicious Dutch pastries handcrafted at DeBoer Dutch Brothers Cafe & Bakkerij, a fifth-generation Dutch bakery. Try the krakalingen, a figure-8 shaped butter cookie covered with a sprinkle of sugar or the banket, flaky pastry filled with a rich almond paste. And don’t forget to stop by the Thirsty Dutchman Pub for an imported Dutch bier (or a local microbrew!) at Nelis’ Dutch Village also home of the Hungry Dutchman Café, which serves traditional Dutch food.

1. Check out the tulips! More than 6 million tulips bloom in Holland each spring as we celebrate our annual Tulip Time Festival. This year’s festival is May 2 – 9. Drive the 6 miles of Tulip Lanes, stroll through Window on the Waterfront Park, city-owned growing fields with 80,000 tulips, or stop at Veldheer Tulip Gardens ablaze with 4,000,000 tulips. And remember…you don’t need a passport!