A beloved West Michigan festival has returned, as strong as ever.
From May 7 to May 15, thousands of people from across the world set foot in Holland to experience the one-of-a-kind Tulip Time Festival. After the COVID-19 pandemic forced the cancellation of the festival in 2020 and scaled back the event last year, this year’s Tulip Time Festival returned in full bloom, with not only the parades but new exhibits and attractions, as well as an unexpected heatwave.
The 93rd annual festival began May 7 with the annual Tulip Run at Kollen Park. Throughout the day, tourists visited landmarks such as Centennial Park, Window on the Waterfront, and Windmill Island Gardens to see the thousands of tulips in bloom, as well as the numerous shops and restaurants downtown. Beechwood Church in Park Township played host to Tulip Time’s annual quilt show and artisan market. That evening, the Holland Civic Center played host to the sold-out Elton Rohn concert (an Elton John tribute show), where Hudsonville resident Holly DeWitt performed a duet with the band, singing Elton John and Kiki Dee’s 1976 single “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart.”
Holly DeWitt, of Hudsonville, center, sings a duet with Elton Rohn as they perform Elton John’s 1976 single “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart” at the Holland Civic Center during the opening night of the Tulip Time Festival, May 7.Visitors observe the tulips at Window on the Waterfront on May 8, the second day of the Tulip Time Festival.
“It was an unreal dream-come-true experience,” DeWitt says. “I never thought I would ever perform for a crowd of that size (1,000 in attendance).” DeWitt, a native of Zeeland, grew up listening to the music of the real Elton John and met the tribute band in 2017.
Attractions old and new
During the festival, tourists and locals had the opportunity to visit the numerous events and attractions such as the “Dazzle!” student showcase at Central Wesleyan Church, the American Legion Band concert at Kollen Park, “Guys On Ice” musical at the Holland Civic Theatre, historic walking tours around town, tall ship tours at the Boatwerks Waterfront Restaurant, Dutch dance at Centennial Park, the carnival midway at the Holland Civic Center, and the Photo Walk at Windmill Island Gardens, hosted by “Art and Praise” photographers Heidi Quellet and Kathy Odiorne.
Heidi Quellet, a photographer of “Art and Praise,” left, assists a participant of the Tulip Time Festival’s Photo Walk workshop while showing photographers how to document DeZwaan Windmill with the tulips at Windmill Island Gardens, May 12.
“The photographers really appreciated the knowledge we provided them during our photography workshop,” says Quellet, of Holland. “One photographer stated that this was the best event he attended during the Tulip Time Festival.”
The Photo Walk, which gave photographers from across the country an opportunity to capture perfect images of the famous DeZwaan Windmill and its tulips, was held from May 9-12, and all six events sold out.
“Some of the photographers who were nurses, health care, and social workers never heard of photography being taught as a healing art,” Quillet adds.” We received a lot of validation from those in the health care field.”
Two new attractions also made their U.S. debut during the Tulip Time Festival. The Ottawa County Fairgrounds in Park Township played host to famed Dutch horticulturist Ibo Gülsen’s Tulip Immersion Garden, which offered a unique look at the iconic flower. Internationally known Dutch photographer Rem van den Bosch displayed his “Zeeland Girl” (Zeenuws Meisje) exhibition at the Holland Armory with a series of tulip-inspired photography and handmade traditional dresses.
Dutch photographer Rem van den Bosch, center right, speaks to visitors about his “Zeeland Girl” photo exhibition at the Holland Armory, May 13.
On the march
On May 12, hundreds of students from area schools, joined by marching bands and floats, participated in the Kinderparade, sponsored by Gentex Corp. Michigan Lieutenant Governor Garlin Gilchrist, who was in town to speak about the tourism outlook for the state, took part in the parade. Mother Nature also made an unexpected appearance that day, bringing a heatwave to the Tulip City that set a record temperature of 90 degrees.
Students of Holland Christian’s Rose Park Elementary School walk down 8th Street in downtown Holland while participating in the Kinderparade on May 12.
Spectators on the balcony of the Holland Civic Center look on as the West Ottawa High School Marching Band marches along the Eighth Street Marketplace during the Kinderparade on May 12.
On May 14, the Quality Car Wash Volksparade, meaning the “People's Parade”, was held, with Mayor Nathan Bocks and the Holland City Council donning their white gloves to inspect the parade route as part of the traditional street scrubbing. The day closed with a Southern rock and classic country concert at the Holland Civic Center, headlined by Chase Bryant and Billy Gunther & The Midwest Riders, along with a fireworks show at Kollen Park. Tulip Time ended May 15.
Though it will be weeks before the exact numbers are available, Tulip Time organizers are confident that this year’s comeback shattered attendance records.
Next year’s Tulip Time Festival is scheduled for May 6-14. Additional information can be found on the Tulip Time’s website and social media page.