The Orange City Tulip Festival

It wasn’t that long ago where I ranked the top #10 festivals in N.W. Iowa and it was obvious that the Orange City Tulip Festival was ranked high! When I originally wrote that post it became a thing of “How do you rank festivals?” Because if you have ever walked the streets in downtown Orange City during tulip time – you would never question that the festival might be considered #1 because Dutch tradition and pride would show that they would never stop perfecting their beautiful festival until it would rise to the top! This is one event in N.W. that you don’t want to miss! The festival marked over 80 years of traditional celebration, which started in 1936! Today it brings in thousands of visitors in a weekend event and boasts thousands of different tulips to add a splash of color!

Thankfully, I had an opportunity to spend part of the day in Orange City touring the downtown area and making a short little video (on a mission to find a Dutch Letter) which was amazing! On top of that, I was fortunate enough to have a short demonstration about wooden shoes in the video below.

It’s About The Tulips!

Tulips, Tulips, Tulips! If it wasn’t for Tiny Tim- I’m not sure that tiptoeing would register in my brain as I wondered through Windmill Park in the downtown area of Orange City. Everywhere you looked – Tulips! This is hopefully what you would expect in a Tulip Festival, but until you completely experience it – it’s hard to comprehend the different types, colors, and varieties! Supposedly there are 3,000 registered tulip varieties and a wide amount of differences between each tulip. I’m NOT a tulip expert, but I do share the love, coloration, and fragrance of the flower – not to mention that it completely lights up the park and other areas around town with a beautiful array of floral mastery.

The History

Starting in 1933 to celebrate their Dutch heritage, Orange City residents began the festival as an ongoing way to share history and customs from the Netherlands, including the celebration of flower culture within Dutch tradition. The tulip naturally led the way in this celebration and within a few years over 50,000 tulip bulbs were imported and planted. As the festival grew it morphed into a 2-day celebration and led into a weekend celebration always held on the third weekend in May. Today there are two daily parades, Dutch folk dancing, a musical night show, and of course the Tulip Queen and Court. One of the notable features is the cleanliness during and after parades as street cleaners/sweepers walk the parade to clean the mess left by horses and other things in the parade – a tradition that continues today.

Wooden Shoes

Photo taken by Dan Cline

A rich history follows the tulip festival and runs deep along with Dutch culture, and one of these customs is the making and wearing of wooden shoes. (Be sure to check the video above as shoemaking is included). The story was brought over and presumably started in France as lowlands and wetlands were being taken for farming and other means. The Netherlands reclaiming land from the North Sea allowed for wet environments and the available lumber allowed for wooden shoes to be readily made while offering protection against the dampness and wet ground. The practical use of wooden shoes gave their advantage to the Dutch working the grounds, but it plays an important part today with historical roots and representation of Dutch work ethic.

Windmill Park

Photo by Dan Cline

One of my favorite parts about Orange City is Windmill Park. The park is unique in that it houses different picnic areas, including a shelter, stage, information booth, playground, floral beds, and several windmills giving the park its name. When you arrive – take time to walk around the display and read about the different windmills and history, as well as crossing over the small walking bridge. The windmills add a different flavor to the park and give it the Dutch symbolism that makes Orange City the unique and beautiful place that it is.

The Orangestad Pomp “Orange City Pump”

Photo taken by Dan Cine

One of the most unique features in the park however is the Oranjestad Pomp or Orange City Pump – which was brought to celebrate 150 years in Orange City. The history of the pump (which was modeled after the town pump in Middleburg, Zeeland) was that it was located on public grounds and served not only as a source of water (since it was before the time of running water) but also as a popular meeting place. Today the water pump is proudly displayed in the middle of Windmill Park.

Tulip Festival to be held May 19-21, 2022

If you have never fully experienced the Tulip Festival in Orange City – put it on your bucket list for 2022! It’s a sure bet to be a fun celebration, with plenty of Dutch heritage to learn about and celebrate. Insider Tip: Be sure to stop at one of the bakeries downtown. If you like almond flavor – be sure to buy the famous “Dutch Letter” – but there are plenty of other Dutch treats to go around. If you have time make a point to shop at a few of the downtown shops and get a flare for a few Dutch gifts to bring home to your loved ones. Also – if you get the chance to go on a local horse-drawn carriage ride – Do it! It’s fun to take a ride drawn by horses and gives you a taste back into history before the automobile. Last, but not least, be sure to take a stroll down to the Sioux County Court House and check out the beauty and wonder of the amazing architecture, especially with the use of the Sioux Quartz as the main building material of the building.

A Mural or Two

Visit Orange City and see why I have it ranked as one of the top #10 festivals in NW Iowa, and take a walk around the town and get a feel for what makes the town what it is…a cute, quiet, simple, yet colorfully beautiful. Don’t forget to look around and take in the artwork displayed on some of the downtown buildings – even the walls reflect the floral celebration that highlights much of what makes the Orange City Tulip Festival what it is…a wonderfully delightful tulip wonderland and full of Dutch culture – a month of May spectacle to behold for sure!

3 thoughts

  1. Really enjoyed this article on Orange City Tulip Festival. Dan’s photos should all be larger as they compliment his story.

    . Dan’s photos


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