Thursday, May 12, 2016

Pella, Iowa ~ Tulip Time Festival

When I was little my Grandpa Rich would drive through Pella to take us to see our Great Grandma Rich.  I loved driving through this little Dutch town.  The downtown district looks like Dutch buildings on the outside.  Iowa has two Dutch settlements, one is in the Northwest part of Iowa named Orange City and the other is Pella.  In the Spring both have a Tulip Festivals.  I have always wanted to go but never went for one reason or another.  This year however, I was able to go and I loved every bit of it. 

The tulips bloomed early and are a little past their prime this year.  The weather was so mild for Iowa and the tulips bloomed a good 2-4 weeks earlier than usual.  I still think they are beautiful.

We enjoyed a little show where the town folk dressed in Dutch clothing and put on a show for the people.  I loved seeing how the children were involved as well.

Above the men are representing windmills as they sung about them.  
All of the singing was in Dutch so I could not understand one word 
but I was able to understand what they are singing about due to their actions.
Below:  I just adored this little one.  She was absolutely a cutie.
Do you know why the Dutch wore wooden shoes?  Well back in the day they found wooden base of shoes and then leather tops were the best type of shoes for their location and the shoes would last.  This was the case for most of Europe back then.  One year there was some sort of disease which killed the cattle, so no leather was available instead they made wooden shoes.  Eventually cattle population increased and many went back to the wooden and leather but not in the Netherlands, they kept to the wooden shoes because it was the best for their environment and this way they would not have to depend on others. 
The little city created a canal downtown to replicate the Dutch feeling.  The Molengracht's plaza was completed in 2001 and I found this little plaza absolutely adorable.  The entire city has such character to it.

The following pictures are part of the plaza.  I simply adore this plaza.
Some of the benches in the plaza were designed to resemble the famous Dutch Letters.
We toured the Historical Village.  Historical homes were placed in an area of downtown Pella. We plan to go back again, possibly next year to tour the entire Historical Village without all the people.  The festival draws many people to it.
Above is a picture of a sod house and below is inside what the sod homes looked like when the Dutch settlement moved to Pella.  Many of the people did not have enough time to build a home prior to the winter so they built sod homes.

Below: Inside the Bakery.  This is the oven they bake all of the Dutch Letters early in the morning. I understand why in the early morning, there is no air conditioning in the Historical Village.

I love the detailing on the puppet stage.  I would have loved for my boys to be able to watch a puppet show from a stage like this.  Oh, the memories they would have had.  It would even be great for the grandchildren.  There was not a show scheduled while we were touring.

Below is how Sinterklaas is dressed.  This is the Dutch Santa.  He lives in Spain and keeps a list of the children's behavior throughout the year.  In late November, he mounts his white horse and has candy and small gifts to deliver to the children.  They board a steamship and travel to the Netherlands.  Finally on December 5th children will leave hay and carrots in their wooden shoes and Sinterklaas will replace it with the small gifts and candy, unless the child was on the bad list.  This child would find coal in the wooden shoe.  Sinterklaas has a helpper, Zwarte Piet who also helps with the deliveries. 

One of the houses in the Historical Village is the childhood home of Wyatt Earp.  We found this exciting since we have a love of the West.  Iowa has many of ties to the past and to the West. The Earp family lived in Pella two different times.  The first was for seven years 1849-1950 and they lived on a 160 acre farm seven miles Northeast of Pella.  The second time they lived in Pella was from 1859-1864.  Morgan Earp was born in Pella. 

Pella has the largest working grain windmill in the United States.  The Vermeer Windmill is the largest in the United States as well.  It was built in the Netherlands and assembled in Pella by two Dutch craftsmen in 2002.  One can tour the windmill and it is included with the Historical Village tour.  We however did not tour it when we visited this time.  If you can see the pictures below, there was a very long line standing on the deck waiting to begin the tour.  I am terrified of heights so we will tour this when we visit next time not during the festival when less people are there. The windmill is 132 feet from the top of the blade to the ground. 
What festival would not be complete without a parade?  The Tulip Time Festival runs three days and one can watch a parade.  All three days have an afternoon parade and two of the nights an evening parade with lights.  Prior to the parade they have the streets cleaned by the sweepers.  After the cleaning is complete people in Dutch clothing representing the 12 Provinces of the Netherlands (Each provinces has a different costume for their region a work outfit and a dress up outfit each style was present.) will dance in their wooden shoes.
Above: One of the cutest little street cleaners I have ever seen.
Schools come to the Tulip Time Festival to compete in Marching Band.  When I went to high school, my high school would participate and won a few Best Marching Band contest here.  I was sad to see they did not participate this year.

Above and below are this year's Tulip Court
The parade had several floats.  Here are a picture of only a few.

This was the 81st Tulip Time Festival.  After World War II, the Netherlands were left in a horrible state due to the Nazi occupation.  Some of the Dutch people had to eat their prized tulip bulbs to survive.  It is estimated 500 million tulip bulbs were eaten as a food source during this time by boiling, frying them or even making them into soup.  Pella quickly responded by sending money, clothing, food and household items.  In 1946 before the Tulip Time Festival a large auction was held to earn money for the care package.  In 1947 the Netherlands arranged to send 15,000 tulip bulbs as a token of their gratitude for the relief care packages.  The bulbs were planted in the Fair Haven Memorial Garden.
This was a life time dream of mine to attend the Tulip Time Festival and I was so grateful my husband enjoyed it as much as I did.  Every Fall they plant new bulbs in the city for the festival because tulip bulbs are their best the first year.  After the tulips have bloomed and it is time to remove the bulbs, they let the community and visitors dig them up and take them home.  I am trying to find out how to get on to this list to be notified.  The city also allows people to order tulips from them.  I should have 30 new bulbs arriving this Fall for me to plant.  I cannot wait to see the beauty next Spring.

Pella is 1 hour and 51 minutes from Iowa City



  1. What a fun excoursion, Jolene! I learned a lot from your post. Interesting about the wooden shoes. Those Dutch children are darling. Thank you for visiting me. It was so nice to catch up with my special blogger. 😊

  2. Wow. What a cool place! I'm so happy you got to go and that your husband enjoyed it as much as you did. I love all of the photos.. If you're ever out Michigan way they have a very cool tulip festival in Holland, Mi. :) - No tulip festivals here in Idaho. Boo. :(

    1. Thank you. Todd and I love this little town and want to definitely go back. I missed the dig up day. It was last weekend. I did read about the one in Michigan. I love the idea it is in Holland, MI.


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