Volunteers Make Holland’s Tulip Time Festival Bloom
The beautiful blooms, authentic Dutch costumes and dances, parades and more are what attract people to Holland, Michigan’s Tulip Time Festival every year.
To put on a top-rated festival of its size, Tulip Time organizers rely on a huge army of volunteers. Many Holland-area residents sign up for jobs big and small throughout the week’s festivities. While they aren’t the main attraction, these worker bees are the heart and soul of a festival that celebrates the region’s Dutch ancestry and customs.
“We couldn’t put on a festival of this magnitude without the help of over 800 volunteers who give their time and talents in so many ways,” said Gwen Auwerda, Tulip Time Executive Director.
“The volunteers are really the backbone of what we do,” said Michelle Boerger, Tulip Time Volunteer Coordinator.
John Miner will tell you he is 70-years-young. He’s volunteered at Tulip Time since 2008. He currently serves as the bleacher patrol coordinator, ensuring that all of the bleachers set up for parade spectators are safe.
He also organizes teams for bleacher patrol duty. About 75 people help out to make sure attendees have their tickets and are seated in the right sections. They also serve as a sort of cheer squad, making sure everyone in the bleachers has a good time.
“The volunteers are the face of Tulip Time,” he said.
In March, Miner put about 600 miles on his car distributing Tulip Time brochures to several nearby cities. He loves that Tulip Time shows off a community he holds dear and is happy to help support it by volunteering in any way he can.
Although Miner isn’t Dutch, his mother-in-law emigrated to Kalamazoo from the Netherlands in 1939 to escape the Nazis. She spoke perfect Dutch and enjoyed attending the festival to experience a spirited celebration of her heritage.
“What a fun time it was for our family to participate in Tulip Time – the festival, the culture, and all things Dutch,” he said. “I hope it just keeps klomping on.”
“You can’t imagine Holland, Michigan, without Tulip Time,” he explained.
This is Bonnie Fraam’s first year as an official Tulip Time volunteer, but she’s certainly no stranger to the festival. Her husband, who passed away in 2013, worked for Warm Friend, a senior retirement community. Fraam would volunteer there to help elderly residents attend Tulip Time parades.
Attending and taking part in the festival was also a celebrated tradition for her family when her children were younger. Newly retired, Fraam decided it was the perfect time to give back to a beloved community event.
“They have done so much to entertain my family over the years,” Fraam explained. “I’m involved now because I can.”
Memories of Fraam’s children marching in the parades and learning the Dutch dances mingle with fondness for the culinary treats and gorgeous displays of the event’s signature flower. At 62, she still enjoys visiting Windmill Island Gardens, home to the only authentic working Dutch windmill in the United States.
“I can still go out there and still get a thrill looking at it,” she said.
While the festival celebrates the area’s Dutch heritage, Fraam said it’s special because it brings all of the area’s diverse residents together. It’s become a point of pride for the entire community, not just people with Dutch ancestry.
Fraam said there’s just something unique and special about Holland. She’s had invites from her children to move to other locales in the country, but her heart is here.
“I take pride in Holland, Michigan,” she said.
Tulip Time festivities typically attract about 450,000 people to Holland. The festival kicks off this Saturday and runs through Saturday, May 9. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan is a sponsor of the annual Tulip Time Festival Luncheon, which takes place on Wednesday, May 6.
What are your favorite Tulip Time memories? Share them with us in the comments!
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Photo credit: Cover photo and dutch dancing photo courtesy of Tulip Time.