Blooms and Tradition: 83rd Tulip Festival in Orange City

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Celebrating Dutch Culture in the Heart of Iowa

Next week marks the 83rd Annual Tulip Festival in Orange City, Iowa. Since its humble origins in 1936, this annual event has attracted thousands of attendees from across the Midwest, gathering to honor and celebrate Dutch heritage. Wander the quaint streets, alive with the colors of thousands of tulips and the iconic silhouette of windmills. Experience the joy of parades, the rhythm of Dutch music, and the tantalizing aroma of traditional delicacies. Held every third weekend in May, this festival invites all to share in the magic of cultural appreciation and community spirit.

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Reserved Seating

Here’s a tip for enjoying the Tulip Festival: Arrive between 11:00 am to 11:30 am and head to Windmill Park. Look for the windmill info booth and pay $5 for reserved seating. Why? Well, you’ll be right in the middle of the action, with performers often facing your section, making it feel like a personal show just for you.

The announcer will give you all the lowdown on the festival, from the history of the dances to the meaning behind the costumes. It’s like having a private guide to the event. Sure, you could grab any spot along the parade route, but if you’re new to the festival, reserved seating is definitely the way to go. It’s a small investment for a much better view and understanding of what’s happening. Trust me, it’ll make your festival experience top-notch. And hey, if you think $5 is steep, just wait until you taste the treats at the bakery—they’re worth every cent!

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Poffertjes

Now that you’ve secured your reserved tickets, it’s time to wander around Windmill Park. Take in the vibrant tulips, admire the replica windmills, and don’t miss the chance to try on their largest pair of wooden shoes.

While at Windmill Park, swing by the stand selling Poffertjes, like mini pancakes topped with rum butter and powdered sugar. Plenty of other street vendors exist if Poffertjes isn’t your cup of tea. Check out all the windmills before grabbing your snacks and drinks before heading to your reserved seating it good idea.

Festival Activities

I love to see all of the costumes. There are so many unique costumes with all the different colors. Since 1950, the locals have participated in the biggest show around, the Tulip Festival Night Show. It’s a cherished event during the festival, where amateur actors and musicians pour their hearts into recreating famous Broadway musicals. The festival features 50-60 different varieties from the Netherlands.

This year, the show is Footloose. The 2024 Night Show will be held at Town Hall in Downtown Orange City. You need to know that the doors open 45 minutes before each show, and they close 10 minutes before showtime.

Although the festival runs from May 15th at 8:00 am to May 18th at 11:00 pm, other activities exist even before the festival begins on March 13th.

The Show Schedule

  • Monday & Tuesday: Show starts at 6:30 pm, doors open at 5:45 pm.
  • Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, & Saturday: Show starts at 8:00 pm, doors open at 7:15 pm.

The nightly show will take place at the Orange City Town Hall, 125 Central Ave SE. Tickets range from $30 to $45; you can choose your seat. Make sure to mark your calendars because tickets went on sale Monday, January 15th, 2024.

During the festival, there are two daily parades, nightly musical theater, a midway carnival, Dutch delicacies, delicious food, thousands of tulips, and a dozen replica windmills throughout Dutch village.

Full Day of Events

The day promises a rich tapestry of cultural events and entertainment for all ages, starting bright and early at 8:00 am with the opening of the Children’s Art Exhibit. As the morning unfolds, visitors can immerse themselves in various activities ranging from antique tractor shows to craft exhibitions and guided tours of historical landmarks like the Dutch American Heritage Museum. The air fills with the sounds of music from Dutch street organs and lively performances by groups like the Dutch Dozen.

Central Avenue is blocked off during the festival, making room for pedestrians walking towards the street carnival. Throughout the day, there are opportunities to engage in traditional crafts, such as wooden shoe carving demonstrations, while also enjoying the vibrant atmosphere of street entertainment. A section of the street is also reserved for their street carnival, which has rides for various ages. Many of the side streets have vendors with food and gifts. There are also games for kids. 

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Festival Highlights

The afternoon’s highlight is the spirited Straat Feest and Volksparade, where the community comes together to celebrate their heritage with music, dance, Drum Line Performances, and a colorful parade through the streets. End the evening with a performance of Footloose (see above) each night at 8:00 pm in the Orange City Town Hall.

Click here for a brochure and a full calendar of events.

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