News Articles

Queen's Day and Liberation anniversaries attract enthusiastic crowds in Dutch towns

Tags: Excerpts from the Windmill

HOLLAND, Michigan / PELLA, Iowa / OTTAWA, Ontario / AMSTERDAM, the Netherlands - Canadian veterans of WWII will readily relate that given the right reason, the Dutch are very good at celebrating happy events. To many of the veterans, Liberation May 1995 was 1945 all over, and perhaps a more joyous occasion. Organizers are all set to repeat the festivities in 2000.

Queen’s Day (April 30) is another such event. Increasingly, the festivities even are attracting German fans of Dutch royalty.

Across the Atlantic hundreds of thousands of people flock to tulip festivals in Dutch-American communities such as Holland (MI), Pella, Orange City (IA), Oak Harbor and Lynden (WA). A gift of tulip bulbs by Dutch Princess Juliana to Ottawa (ON) led to the rise of the Canadian Tulip Festival, an event that rivals Holland’s Tulip Time.

There are numerous more subdued but nevertheless colourful attractions across the USA, most of them feature the famed flowering bulb as an embodiment of Dutch identity and local civic pride.

Crowd favorite

On Queen’s Days, most members of the royal family take part in the some of the public activities. Prince Claus, now 70, under the watchful eye of his wife, Queen Beatrix, could be seen clowning around on his bike and then riding off with the family’s newest member, Princess Marilène who last year married Prince Bernhard, a son of the Queen’s sister Princess Margriet. Many in the crowd cheered on the Prince. He went casual when he removed his tie, a repeat gesture for which he has become wellknown recently, giving it in safekeeping to a surprised reporter. Absent from the festivities were Princess Juliana, now 90, and her husband Prince Bernhard Sr.

Since U.S. Congress declared November 16th a Dutch-American Heritage Day, an act proclaimed by then President George Bush, committees all over the U.S. organise special but often small events to mark the occasion. The day is actually the anniversary date of the first foreign salute to the American flag by the Dutch governor of an Caribbean island. The decades-old Tulip Festivals in Holland, Michigan and Pella, Iowa, and others, mirror grand-scale festivities of the Netherlands more accurately, however.

Tulip Festivals

Perhaps modelled after the popular, colourful floats’ parade of the Dutch flowering bulb growing region of Lisse and Hillegom, the American Dutch have mixed folkloristic hoopla with the beauty of flowering bulbs. Unlike the Dutch at ‘home’ who top the plants to use the flowers for the parade floats, their North American cousins leave the flowers to whither on the stem in the beds along the roads and in the parks, always hoping that cool springtime will not turn into hot summer weather to quickly.

The popularity of Holland’s Tulip Time is not lost on state politicians in Michigan’s capital of Lansing. Of all the state’s leaders, none as avid a supporter as Governor John Engler, who accompanied by his wife and their triplet daughters, all donned Dutch (American) customes and with brooms in hand walked - on klompen - with the parade through town. The resemblance with royal participation in festivities in the Netherlands on Queen’s Day compared with what occurs in Holland, Michigan is striking. None of the other North American Tulip Festivals attract government leaders the way Holland, Michigan does.