Each year, for one week in May, thousands of people descend on the shores of Lake Macatawa and Lake Michigan to visit the Tulip Time Festival in Holland, Michigan. A celebration of Dutch culture, the Tulip Time Festival has parades, markets, food vendors, a carnival, and, of course, Tulips in every color. This event is consistently rated as one of the best small-town festivals in the nation by publications like Premier Tourism Magazine, Reader’s Digest, and USA Today. Put on your best pair of Klompen (Dutch wooden clogs) and come see what this special event has to offer.
How did Tulip Time originally start?
The idea of Tulip Time was introduced in 1927 at a Woman’s Literary Club meeting. Miss Lida Rogers, a biology teacher at Holland High School, suggested that Holland adopt the tulip as its flower because of its close ties to the Netherlands, given the community was around 85% Dutch immigrants at the time, and set aside a day for a festival along with planting tulips in every yard.
In 1928, City Council, under Mayor Ernest C. Brooks, appropriated funds to purchase 100,000 tulip bulbs from the Netherlands. These bulbs were to be planted in city parks and other areas; residents could purchase bulbs for one cent a piece. May 1929 bloomed the first tulips for Tulip Time in Holland, Michigan.
Why should somebody come visit Tulip Time?
Holland, Michigan is such a culturally vibrant city with strong Dutch roots dating back to its settlement; situated on the picturesque shores of Lake Michigan, Holland also boasts top horticultural honors in the American and Communities in Bloom competitions. With over 5 million tulips blooming in the city area, the tulips paint a colorful picture of the mosaic that makes up Holland. During the festival there are parades, fireworks, cultural Dutch Dance performances, musical and comedic acts, historic tours, a 5k/10k race along tulip lined streets, yoga in the tulips, a carnival and so much more.
What is something that most people don’t know about Tulip Time?
Tulip Time is a non-profit 501(c)3 organization that is separate from the City of Holland. The festival’s free events are solely supported by over 180 generous community businesses that invest in our community through a gift to Tulip Time. In its humbling beginnings, Tulip Time was run by a volunteer committee in 1929 that grew to a full time, year ‘round staff present day. Now, it takes a full staff and nearly 1,000 volunteers to power the festival.
What is your favorite food to have during Tulip Time?
Is this limited to just the week of the festival? I could eat my weight in Banket all year long (a type of Dutch pastry filled with almond paste and baked golden brown). If you are limiting it to the week of Tulip Time, you could pick a favorite by the day. On week days, either the Krentenbrood (Currant Bread) at the Dutch Food Court at Marktplaats or the deep fried Oliebollen (Dutch donuts). During the first weekend at the LAUP Fiesta, they feature the Tamale King, Ray, and his delectable authentic Mexican dishes. This year my favorite might change as we have artisan food trucks coming for the first time to the Moderdag (Mother’s Day) Market on May 13! With our craft spirits and brewery scene, I would be remised if I didn’t mention my favorite libations available at various downtown establishments. This year New Holland has brought back the Red Tulip, a toasty ale that is as comforting as warm buttered toast in the morning. Coppercraft Distillery has harnessed the best of the spirits in our great state with a cocktail called the Michigan Mule, a twist on the traditional mule using their Applejack whiskey made with Michigan apples. Whatever your culinary pleasure, you can eat your way through Tulip Time to your foodie heart’s content.
What is your favorite thing to do during Tulip Time?
Personally, as a staff member and Holland resident, my favorite thing to do is observe people journeying from all corners of the world to get a taste of our home town. To see the sheer magnitude of what Tulip Time is, beyond just a festival, is seeing such a diverse city come together despite their different backgrounds to celebrate in community with one another. There are two places to take in the festival from the “30,000 foot view”; either the Ferris wheel at sunset or the DeZwaan Windmill at Windmill Island Gardens. The views from either place allow you to see the masses of visitors and beautiful tulips as clusters.
As a visitor, my favorite past time has been watching Dutch Dance. To hear and experience 700 dancers together in colorful fabrics that hold stories of heritage and nationality is quite impressive.