Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Tulip Time in Holland, Michigan

Last week was packed! I visited two places for my upcoming Journal deadline, covered an open shift at work (giving up a precious day off in the process), and Greg and I went back forth with our realtor and the bank over a new offer when the house we are trying to buy appraised at far less than the price we'd originally agreed upon. (This works in our favor, of course, but it was a big headache getting it all done and the right paperwork signed and sent to the right people. Then the sellers didn't even have to agree and we would have had to walk, which meant starting all over from the beginning of the house-hunting process.) 

I realized on our late night drive to Kalamazoo Thursday night that I hadn't updated this blog yet, and I knew I wasn't going to have time. We had an appointment the next morning to look at a potential wedding venue all the way out in Benton Harbor, then were planning to spend the day in Holland to check out the Tulip Time festival, the largest tulip festival in the United States, which Greg had never attended. (I hadn't been since 2011 when my mother and I took Kimmy, newly arrived from California.) 

The weather was perfect - warm, but not too hot, and the right amount of sunny - and most of the tulips were at their peak. A festival that occurs at the same time every year can often be hit or miss with flowering seasons, so this was spectacular. Tulip Time also celebrates the region's Dutch heritage and includes Dutch food, crafts, and old timey Dutch clothing which includes the infamous klompenor wooden shoes. (There was a man in the market making them, and you could also buy yourself a pair. They're actually more comfortable than they look.) 

When I was in elementary school in Portage (next to Kalamazoo), we always had a week in music class during which we learned Dutch songs, dances, and dressed up in wooden shoes and aprons for the girls (I don't remember if the boys wore anything special other than the shoes). We didn't put on a performance, it was strictly a class activity, but we all understood that wooden shoes and tulips were a shared part of our heritage. Except for me. The only Dutch ancestry I have is from the 1600s or before and via England. That doesn't change the fact that West Michigan is extremely Dutch. Just look through a Grand Rapids phone book! So many Vans.

Outside of tulips, I've never much been a fan of the Dutch, or at least the American offspring that settled here 100+ years ago. They are extremely conservative, which might sound weird to people who mostly associate "Dutch" with "Amsterdam," "prostitution," and "marijuana." Jesus and Holland have always gone hand-in-hand in my mind. Remember those WWJD bracelets that were all the rage in the 1990s? Those were invented in Holland, Michigan. In my high school, you were one of the cool kids if you had one, so naturally, almost everyone had one. (I did not.) 

Many of the Dutch-founded counties of West Michigan were dry until 2006 when they finally realized banning places like Applebees was bad for economic growth. I am told I also have the Dutch to thank for my pronunciation of "milk" sounding more like "melk" (the Dutch word for "milk") and "pillow" as "pellow" (which I actually don't do anymore, but I still sometimes say "melk").

So yes. The Dutch are conservative. But they grow some beautiful flowers and Greg and I had a lovely time looking at them. Watching the presentation of children dancing in klompen and singing a Dutch song brought back amusing memories. (Five pairs of socks to wear those things!) I even got Greg to try on a pair and snapped a picture. 

There are a few pubs in downtown Holland (because alcohol stimulates economic growth), a downright charming place with more than a little high-end shopping. We ate lunch and had a few drinks at the New Holland Brewing Company Pub, bought some delicious chocolate from the Holland Peanut Store, and almost bought a sign for our soon-to-be house from Apothecary Gift Shop.

Even though I have barely a speck of Dutch blood in me, Dutch heritage is my heritage and it was nice to share it with my future Mr. Me. 

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