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Leading U.S. Spring festival looking for an authentic Dutch touch

Holland’s Tulip Time evolves

Tags: Excerpts from the Windmill

HOLLAND, Michigan – For many decades, Holland’s Tulip Time, the annual colourful flowering bulb show has heralded the passing of the lengthy winter season. It has been celebrated surrounded by numerous symbols of Dutch identity: the klompen dancers, the ceremonial street washing as part of the parades, Dutch hybrids, windmills – from the live-sized De Zwaan to miniature porcelain window sill models, and six millions of tulips lining city streets and private yards.

Now, Tulip Time 2007 is introducing another dimension, harking back to the good old times: storytelling and folk group Moederleet from the Netherlands, among other things. These efforts are designed to enhance the Dutchness of Tulip Time.

According to Tulip Time Director Tamra Bouman, there is a growing market of tourists looking for more authentically Dutch cultural attractions as well as the traditional audience which has made the event a success over so many years. She believes more people are looking for that cultural experience. Noting that there is so much competition in the tourism industry, Tulip Time is looking to give people that 'wow' experience.

Dutch composer and pianist Jan Mulder will perform with his three sons and the Holland Symphony Orchestra two times during the May 5 festival week.

The 11-piece folk band Moederleet (Dutch for "Mother's sorrow") from the Netherlands will perform Dutch folk music a number of times during its 4-day schedule.

Storyteller Grace Wolbrink and the Muffin Dancers have been researching traditional Dutch folk stories which she and her group will present at the local Herrick District Library.

Among the other attractions are combat-training sessions of Frisian horses on Holland’s nearby sandy Lake Michigan beaches. The horses perform drills and will be exposed to coloured emissions and noise from smoke bombs. Tulip Time also holds a Town Crier competition with half of the participants coming from Ontario, Canada. Host of the event is Dutch American Jan Karsten.

Tulip Time has long been one of the largest spring festival in the U.S. and leads a list of over ten such tulip festivals held in various parts of the nation. The town of 35,000 attracts 400,000 to 500,000 visitors during Tulip Time.

Holland, Michigan was founded in the dense forests in 1847 by Secession co-leader Rev. A.C. van Raalte and his followers. The first Tulip Time dates from the 1930s.

Tulip Time is held from May 5 through 12.