Our Trip to the 

Orange City, Iowa

61st Annual Tulip Festival

        We started our trip on Friday afternoon. I was unable to get reservations for a hotel near the town of Orange City and so our trip was going to take us about 30 miles north of our intended destination. This turned out to be okay, as the room we got was a JACUZZI SUITE, and had a King sized bed, and a microwave, and a small refrigerator, as well as an extremely friendly and helpful Desk Clerk. She told us about the park a short drive from the hotel.

and I quote, "Wheeee, this is fun! Wahoooo!"

The slide                   The climb                     The ride! 

This was extremely lucky for Erika, since we had only stopped ONCE on the 4 hour drive up to play on a playground. All other stops were playground-free, though of course not play free.

            We ordered dinner from a nearby restaurant and took it back to our room. Erika does not/will not behave in restaurants, so for now we are avoiding them when possible. It was a yummy dinner and while we waited for it to be cooked we strolled around the downtown area of Sibley, Iowa. It was a VERY small town. Quaint, with a brick 'Main' Street, a 2 screen movie theater, a bowling alley and seemingly one small version of each kind of store you'd expect to see in a downtown: clothes, attorney/insurance, travel, home/office supplies, etc. All were closed by the time we were waiting for dinner, sometime after 5.

           The room had a pullout couch and we set that up for Erika. I took a VERY relaxing jacuzzi bath and afterwards we settled Erika down for the night. She was somewhat restless though and we ended up taking turns comforting her.

         Saturday was THE DAY. We partook of the free continental breakfast at the hotel (kinda sparse: toast and dry cereal) and were on our way! In no time at all we were in Orange City. I had done a lot of web research before leaving, but we still stopped at the very prominent Chamber of Commerce and picked up a pamphlet which contained a map and itinerary.

I can almost go into the postcard business with this one, eh?

Erika DOES have a Mommy!

           We drove around a bit before deciding on a parking spot. We then loaded up Erika's stroller and off we went!

           We first explored some of the local 'Dutch' stores, where they sold all manner of ethnic items (stroopwaffe!) as well as tourist-y things. There were wooden shoes, both plain and painted, available all over town. Erika has a pair of orange ones we got at a wedding years ago, and she just  fits in them now. We considered a new pair but couldn't decide on a size...  so we bought a windmill instead. They had a beautiful wooden one but ours is a nylon wind-catcher. We managed to break down the tower part but didn't want to fuss with the sails... so for most of the day Erika held it while she sat in her stroller and the wind made it go round and round and round and round. We got lots of smiles for that, from other festival-goers as well as Erika.

           From the shops we wandered to the town hall area where there was an Arts Show, music stage and food booths. We chowed on lunch, listened to music, walked through booths and looked at our watches. Still about 2 hours to the Volksparade, which I sort of viewed as the Main Event.

         Unlike the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival that we went to in Washington about 9 years ago, this festival did not have fields of tulips. Instead, the town had many gardens, public and private, filled with these flowers.

         In some ways this was a perfect town for our family! As you can see above, there were tractors, which Erika LOVES (especially when she can sit on them!) and beautiful tulips, which turn the heads of both Doug and I.

         After lunch and before the parade, we spent time at a school playground about 2 blocks from the town hall. I could see from the llloooonnnnnnngggg row of bike racks that the town embraced the Netherlands's love of bicycles, as well as tulips.

         Erika had a lot of fun at the playground but it didn't take too much coaxing to get her to walk back to the main part of town to get ready to see the parade. It seemed like most of the residents of the town were in Dutch garb. It was very exciting to see the involvement of so many people; the town truly seemed to enjoy sharing their appreciation of their heritage.

Waiting for the parade to begin.

          Before the parade began there was some entertainment in the form of the town's children dancing in wooden shoes. There were 2 different age groups; one about middle and high school age, and the other elementary school age.

Notice the architecture in the background. Even "Radio Shack" is touted as having 'Dutch Architecture'!

             Next came the street inspection. Since the itinerary listed a 'Street Scrubbing' before the parade, you knew ahead of time the results of the inspection. Nevertheless, the official procedure was followed, and the street was found in need of cleaning. Bring on the townsfolk! First came the men with buckets. All along the parade route where HUGE vats of water. The males scooped it out with their buckets and flung it onto the street (and sometimes each other! It was a bit hot).

Quite a large crowd of townspeople were involved in the process. Below see the last of the bucket brigade, with the women bringing up the rear with brooms to sweep the water and clean the street.

It was an all-ages event.

        Now the street was ready for the Queen of the Tulip Festival, who headed up the parade... and was incidentally named Erika! Not sure if she spells it 'right'.


All Hail Queen Erika!
The Queen's float

Car a go-go.
Pushme-Pullme car!

~~~Ship's Ahoy!~~~
The Flying Dutchman float

Marching in WOODEN SHOES!
Wooden Shoe Marching Band



Tulip Float

A windmill float

You say Sinter Klaas, I say Santa Claus, let's call the whole thing off.
Sinterklaas Day float

Dutch Cleanser float

                            As you can see, the parade was filled with marching bands, floats, and unique items such as the car with 2 front ends. I don't have a picture of the tractor that was as big as a small house or the Army tank that participated also.  I also don't have a picture of every band and every float; the above just give you the flavor of the event. The parade lasted about an hour, not including the street cleaning! There was also a section of the parade that featured the various sections of the Netherlands. The flag of the country, and then each Provence was displayed, and behind each flag was a couple or family dressed in 'traditional' garb from each section. The announcer often noted that the particular clothes or style were no longer worn, that they hadn't been worn in 50, 75 or however many years.

               It was interesting to see the families in the traditional dress. No matter how small, ALL family members were costumed. Many families had their little ones in modern strollers, though there were some perambulators ("prams") and one that looked like an old fashioned washtub on wheels. And this little girl just stole my heart!

Now that's cuteness in any language!

              After the parade I said I wanted to head north a few blocks. We had seen most of the southern part of town and the map showed something called "Windmill Park". We not only found a park with a windmill, playground equipment, flags and flowers,

but a CARNIVAL!!

Erika's first ever Ferris Wheel ride.    Let's zoom in to see if she's having fun. Yup!

Hats off to a good time! They each had a hat at the top, but at the bottom they blew off. Both were giggling and smiling so they hardly even noticed.

Erika became a 'Girl In Motion'! Here she is on the swing, all by herself like a big girl! She also went on the "Tilt a Whirl" with both Doug and I, and on the Carousel with Doug. As at the local zoo, she chose to sit on the bench on the carousel. She doesn't like riding the animals, even the ones that DON'T go up and down.

             About halfway through all the carnival rides, it started to rain on us. The day had been thankfully overcast but warm, and this cooled things off plus gave us an excuse to head for the car. Erika did NOT think this was a good excuse AT ALL, and gave the townspeople reason to think a child was being bitterly abused. She screamed and cried and struggled to get out of her stroller to go back to the fun rides, and we tried to calmly walk to the car. Her cries eventually waned, though sobby-breathing and some lip protusion (pouting) was evident.

             As we drove home, the rain increased and though it might have been nice to stay a litle longer at the Festival, we had had a VERY nice day and it was nice to be in the car, safe and dry.

           We avoided restaurants once again and hit the DRIVE-IN A&W in Sibley. Yep, you ordered from your car and the food was delivered, but there were no roller skates or trays involved. We headed back to the room, where we once again marveled at the usefulness of Erika's blow-up Nerf soccer ball. It's terrific for travel since you can deflate it, and inflate it so that it's easy to catch and pretty harmless indoors. The rain had made playgrounds pretty much off limits.

            We watched the weather forecast and saw scattered showers all night and lots and lots of rain in our entire travel area for the Sunday trip home. During a break in the showers I ran out and re-Rainex-ed the windshield in preparation, and it was a good thing I did! We also took advantage of the temporarily clear skies to take one last walk through town and get some ice cream for dessert.

           Erika was restless once again, but finally settled down sprawled sideways across the hideabed so that it was near impossible to put blankets on her without undoing the entire bed, which would wake her up. I would have been cold without blankets but she seemed happy enough.

          Since we were only about 10 miles from the Minnesota border, we decided to head north and add another state to Erika's visitation list, bringing her up to a grand total of 20 US states! Not bad for a 3 year old. It also meant we could travel on major highways most of the way home and we hoped to make good time. This was somewhat of a pipedream as the weather, and some construction, slowed us down.

'View", if you can call it that, our our windshield on the trip home.

This was what one of the storms looked like as we drove home.

           Experiencing storms in the wide, flat Mid-west farmland can be scary at times! I kept an eye on the clouds and there were many dark, scary, low-lying clouds, but there was surprisingly little wind and luckily never any tornado activity. The storms were sporatic, and during one lull we visited the Prairie Expo.

The exterior through our rain spattered windshield.

An interior shot of the Prairie Expo.

Doug and Erika in the cab of the train.

             We got home around dinnertime, and the wind and rain continued all night.

               One of the best things about the Tulip Festival was the fact that they kept things affordable. A milk for Erika was 50 cents, 20 oz bottles of water were $1, Erika's souvenir t-shirt was $10. None of these were outrageous; I pay almost twice that for similar items at the local baseball stadium. I picked up a cute little pipe/flute for 50 cents and I spotted, but didn't buy, a pair of tiny wooden shoe earrings for$6.50.  Sure, there were overpriced items available, but a family on a budget could enjoy themselves as readily as one ready to splurge on a special event.


~ "Official" links ~

http://www.orangecityiowa.com/    the server is a bit slow, so please be patient or try it again in a few days, when traffic may have slowed down.  I think they already have info up for next year's celebration!