Thursday, May 8, 2008

Tulip time!

Sign welcoming visitorsTulips in Holland
Image via Wikipedia
The Holland, Michigan Tuliptime Festival, going on this week, celebrates the Dutch ways that run strong in the west Michigan area, in Holland and Zeeland in particular, but the influence extends to Grand Rapids as well. (Our local grocery chain was started by Fred Meijer, and you can buy a car from Van Andel and Flikkema, or from one of the DeVos family, just to pick a few examples)

Every third business you see, it seems, in Holland or Zeeland, is owned by Van Someoneoranother, and Holland certainly embraces its heritage. The city owns Windmill Island Gardens, which has a (what else?) windmill, iconic of the Netherlands.

De ZwaanDe Zwann Windmill
Image by jschneid via Flickr
From the tourist blurbage at the city's site:

A beautiful oasis within the city of Holland, Windmill Island features a 240 year old working Dutch windmill "De Zwaan" (meaning graceful bird). The windmill towers over 36 acres of manicured gardens, dikes, canals and picnic areas.

And of course, tulips are everywhere in town, especially this time of year. They feature in the flowerbeds, in shop window decorations, as architectural motifs, even in some of the food you can get at the festival.

A big part of the festival are the klompen (wooden shoe) dancers. They are out in force during the festival, performing in parades, in the street cleaning (yes, the festival features street cleaning with brooms and buckets and the whole 9 yards, it is traditional that the Governor of Michigan comes out for it, steps into a pair of shoes, and gets cleaning... our governor Jennifer Granholm missed out this year since she just had surgery, and we had to make do with Miss America instead ) and just roaming around being part of things.
Dutch DancersKlompen Dancers
Image by Mr. Mcgladdery via Flicker

What I found most interesting about them (and darn you, Zemanta, the image at right was the closest I could come to what I wanted to show) was not the shoes themselves (painful as those might be, you can see some here), but that so many of the dancers were girls. Even the boys. The dance itself was apparently traditionally performed by men and women. But it must be that Holland MICHIGAN men are too cool, because a lot of the "boys" dancing (in button vests and cloth caps instead of dresses) are girls, or more properly middle aged soccer moms 51 weeks of the year... and Klompen Dancers for one.

I found it amusing. And maybe telling, that us guys are too cool to dance. Or too cool to dance in uncomfortable wooden shoes.

What about you? (if you're a boy...) Are you too cool to dance? Or just too cool to dance in the streets of a small midwestern town in horribly uncomfortable shoes wearing odd costumes?

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