Dutch immigrants escaping religious persecution in Europe created sizable settlements in Pella and Orange City in the 1800s. Approximately 200 years later, these communities are living reminders of the customs and culture of their forebears. And their residents, many of whom are descendants of the original settlers, take pride in showcasing their ethnic roots.
Held annually the first weekend in May
One look and you’ll know that Pella treasures its Dutch beginnings. Building architecture is reminiscent of a traditional Dutch village, and landmarks like the Vermeer Mill and Klokkenspel bring a touch of Holland to this central Iowa community of 10,000. During the Tulip Time Festival, visitors flock here to delight in three days of Dutch revelry.
Check out these five event highlights:
1. Tulips: Pella is synonymous with tulips. More than 200,000 are planted around town, including 130,000 that are concentrated at the Pella Historical Society and Museum gardens.
2. Food: Vendors serve long-time Dutch favorites such as poffertjes (tiny pancakes), vet bollen (friend dough with raisins) and stroopwafels (small, caramel-filled waffles).
3. Street scrubbing: Several times during the festival residents dressed in traditional Dutch attire literally scrub the streets, an homage to the Dutch’s commitment to cleanliness.
4. Parades: The Volks Parade take places daily at 2:30 and 4:00. In the evening, a lighted version is a can’t-miss.
5. Tours: Pella’s many attractions are open for tours throughout the festival.
Held annually on the third weekend of May
What started as the Lion’s Club’s first annual Tulip Show in 1933 has grown into one of the nation’s premier celebrations of Dutch heritage. The Orange City Tulip Festival officially debuted in 1936 and today attracts more than 100,000 people during the three-day event. Grab your “klompen” (wooden shoes) and head to northwest Iowa to become Dutch for the day.
Don’t miss these five event highlights:
1. Wooden Shoe Carving: The time-honored tradition of carving wooden shoes is on display at two locations. The best part? You can purchase a pair to take home.
2. Straat Feest (street festival): This daily event demonstrates traditional Dutch dancing and a Mode Show where residents of all ages model authentic Dutch attire.
3. Pedicabs: Hope a ride aboard this bicycle/carriage combo that travels throughout downtown. Your “driver” will gladly answer your festival-related questions.
4. Fietsen Zangers: A festival favorite since 1999, this group of singers travels by bicycle and stops spontaneously to entertain guests with a capella versions of Dutch tunes.
5. Dutch Street Organ: One of only a few such instruments still in working condition, Orange City’s Dutch organ is more than 100 years old and is comprised of 67 keys, 299 pipes, and drums.