The History Of The Holland , MI
The Reason for Emigration:
The conditions in the Netherlands, which finally led to the emigration of Hollanders to America in the 1840’s, can be classified as religious, political, and emotional. A few leaders of the movement against the State Church formed an association and decided to hold religious meetings in spite of the King’s orders. The government also held an exclusive control over education. About this time the great failure in the potato crop occurred, which caused poverty and starvation especially among the middle class of people. The government also imposed high taxes and had adopted several parts of the Penal Code of Napoleon which specifically forbid the meetings of certain numbers of people for religious worship unless under the State Church. Some of this association was Rev. Albertus C. Van Raalte, Vander Meulen, Schoolmate and Van de Luster.
The Holland Colony
In September of 1846, a group of 53, including women and children, under the leadership of Rev. Albertus C. Van Raalte, set sail for America. They arrived in America around the first of November and were welcomed by Rev. DeWitt, Mr. Forrester and many others anxious to do what they could for those arriving from Holland. From New York they continued onto Albany where they met Rev. Wychkoff. Later he was very helpful in establishing the Church in the Holland colony as part of the General Synod.
Although the lake at Detroit was already frozen, the journey was not held up because of impending cold weather. Most of the men found work in St. Clair shipyards, but Van Raalte and a few others, including Mr. Grotenhuis set out for Kalamazoo.
Here he met Judge Kellogg, who took him by dog sled to Allegan where they met Rev. George N. Smith, missionary to the Ottawa Indiana, and Isaac Fairbanks, a government agent sent to look over the territory around Black Lake along the shore of Lake Michigan.
When Van Raalte decided that this was the place he was looking for, he knelt in the snow and thanked God for leading him there and asked for guidance in the future. Van Raalte and the seven men and one woman, (Mrs. Grotenhuis) who accompanied him to Allegan, lived together in huts built on the present site of Holland. They arrived there the 9th day of February in 1847. Religious services were immediately held in keeping with the reason they had come to America.
By March of the same year, the rest of the original group came from Detroit. Living near the Hollanders were about 300 Indians under Chief Waukazoo. The first Church was started in the fall of 1847; in the meantime, services were held out of doors or in one of the sheds or the lean-to near Van Raalte’s cabin. In 1956, the White Pillar Church, which now stands on 96th Street, was built.
The Holland, Michigan Tulip Festival
The idea of Tulip Time was introduced at a meeting of the Woman’s Literary Club in 1927. Miss Lida Rogers, biology teacher at Holland High School, suggested that Holland adopt the tulip as its flower because of its close ties to the Netherlands, and set aside a day for a festival. She titled her talk that day “Civic Beauty” and spoke at length about the area’s unique sand dunes, its fine trees, safe water supply, pure milk, and ample playgrounds. She advocated planting more trees, and because the Chamber of Commerce was seeking something appropriate, suggested planting tulips in every yard. She concluded with reading a poem, “Come Down to Holland in Tulip Time.”
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. Initial plans called for a “Tulip Day.” Bulbs were available to Holland residents at one cent a piece.
Thus it was in 1929 that thousands of tulips bloomed, and Holland invited visitors to come during the week in May that included the 15th. Because of interest shown, it was decided to make Tulip Time an annual event with Mrs. Ethel Telling as the first chairman. Under Mrs. Telling’s leadership, the festival was organized emphasizing Dutch costumes and wooden shoes. The revival of old Netherlands customs and traditions naturally followed, and visitors and townsfolk found the festival both unique and picturesque.
In 1933 the first Tulip Time office opened, incorporating festival functions with the Chamber of Commerce. By the mid-30’s Tulip Time was a nationally known event and nine-day festivals were staged up until World War II. It was also in 1933 that Ethel Perry, high school girls’ gym teacher, trained the Dutch Villagers, later known as Klompen Dancers, to perform Dutch folk dances. There were 12 dancers that first year, and they danced to “Where, Oh Where, Has My Little Dog Gone?” The number of dancers has grown to well over 1,400 in the 1990’s, including some 400 alumni dancers. All of the dancers were female at that time.
Authenticity of the dancers Dutch Costumes has been a major point since the early years. One of the early operettas had costumes of the musical comedy type, delft blue skirts, bodices, white organdy caps and aprons. The switch to authentic costumes, many of them with black skirts and aprons, seemed dull at first, but costumes of other provinces with more colors were added providing much more diversity.
Tulip Time festivals were discontinued during World War II but interest was kept alive with a flower show and musical events. A four-day festival was renewed in 1946, retaining all the pageantry and special features of the previous nine-day festivals. Festival leaders learned early that visitors like tulips, flower shows, parades, “Klompen” Dancing and music. Attempts to deviate from this formula have generally not proved successful.
Tulip Time in 1947 was geared to Holland’s Centennial. In the two years that elapsed since V-J Day, Holland had bridged many problems and was ready to celebrate an important milestone in her history. Tulip bulbs again were available, although in limited quantities. The Netherlands had in fact “rediscovered” Holland, Michigan, and our Dutch ties were strengthened, many of them out of gratitude for the aid our local citizens had sent to the Netherlands following World War II.
It was in 1947 that the people of the city of Amsterdam sent a barrel organ to the people of Holland. It was just one of many things that came on a special Dutch ship that sailed into Holland Harbor. The barrel organ was played extensively during V-J Day events and later in Tulip Time parades. The barrel organ is now in storage at Windmill Island.
The year 1947 also marks the first time a Michigan governor participated in the street scrubbing ceremonies. Governor Kim Sigler chose to join the Dutch burghers, and the photographers had a field day. Thereafter, all of Michigan’s governors have donned costumes. During the height of his popularity, Governor George Romney was even pictured in Time Magazine on the “People” page scrubbing streets! Governor G. Mennen (Soapy) Williams came to Tulip Time nearly every year during his 12-year tenure as governor.
In succeeding years, Tulip Time continued on much the same pattern, adding more cultural features and entertaining ever increasing crowds. The number of Klompen Dancers increased each year, and even a few boys participated beginning in the mid 1970’s. High School students interested in the Dutch Folk dances learn these dances under the direction of an experienced instructor. Early in the festival’s history the “Klomp-Klomp” on the pavement rivaled the Tulips in attracting visitors.
In the 1960’s and 70’s, Tulip Time was discovered by group tours and package bus tours became popular. This was a happy development since huge numbers traveled in buses, alleviating to some degree the parking problem on city streets. A good share of the bargain tours used private home housing. Whole neighborhoods cooperated in keeping entire busloads in the same area. Some tours offering deluxe hotel service ended up lodging as far away from Holland as Toledo, Ohio.
A welcome development during the 1970’s was parade bleacher seating, filling a long time need and also providing some financial backing for the festival. Most of the bleachers are conveniently set up in the vicinity of the Civic Center (Tulip Time Headquarters) and Kollen Park. So financially successful was this venture, that Tulip Time provided $10,000 towards the float that Holland entered in the 1976 Tournament of Roses parade in Pasadena, CA, which launched America’s Bicentennial.
The year 1976 was a red-letter year for Tulip Time. Holland got tremendous publicity through its float entry (a huge basket of tulips suspended between two windmills) in the Tournament of Roses parade. The four-day Tulip Time Festival was climaxed by the appearance of President Gerald R. Ford in the Parade of Bands. The President was accompanied by his wife Betty and their daughter Susan. The president’s son Jack visited Holland two days later.
One of the first features introduced at the festival was the wearing of Dutch Costumes and wooden shoes. A wooden shoe carver from the Netherlands was hired and today Holland boasts the only two wooden shoe factories in the Nation. Shoes are fashioned from white poplar logs and over 20,000 pairs are made annually for sale to Holland visitors. The Tulip Time Festival has continues to grow over the years and is now a 10 day festival drawing well over 1 million visitors to the area each year.
As of 2015 even small children participate in the dancing around Centennial Park, downtown 8th Street, and at different functions. There are also special Exhibition Groups of Klompen Dancers from the high schools that perform at special functions in different cities in the U.S throughout the year. A band from Holland High School marches in wooden shoes while playing “Tip Toe Through The Tulips” and has performed in a Presidential Inaugural Parade and at the Rose Bowl Parade in California.
In addition to the tulips, parades and the wooden shoe “Klompen” dancers, the festival program is augmented with various events for each day. These include professional musical variety programs, Parade of Barbershop Quartets, and Dutch Heritage presentation. Many well know performers come to entertain. Performances are held in school auditoriums and at local churches.
The Tulip Time Flower Show, one of the best in the State, has become a part of Tulip Time and is sponsored by the Holland Garden Club. Hope College with the High Schools of the area assist the Festival with programs consisting either of musical or dramatic contributions. Another popular attraction is Dutch Village with its canals, Dutch farmhouse and barn, street organ, exhibits and select rides. There is also a manufactures mall designed in the Dutch theme.
Of interest to the hundreds of thousands of visitors each year and in the preservation of the original purpose of the Festival, no “Tulip Queen” is elected. Now, as in the beginning, the Tulip, in all her stately beauty, the tulip flowers reign as “Queen” in this community of color and music each year in May when its’ “Tulip Time in Holland”.
An authentic 200-year old Dutch windmill, “De Zwaan”, is located at Windmill Island. Also on display is the “Little Netherlands”, designed and constructed in miniature. Local sculptors, artists and craftsmen combined talents to reproduce quaint sections of Old Holland with figures, houses, windmills, canals with dikes, mechanized drawbridges and operating boat locks.
The Netherlands Museum became reality in 1937 to serve as a center of Dutch culture and to perpetuate the memory of the Dutch pioneers who settled in this area. Many of the unusual articles on display were brought to this county by the early Dutch settlers and by the Dutch government. This is a popular visitor attraction.
History of the Tulip:
Tulip Time in Holland, Michigan is one of the largest flower festivals in the United States.