Tulip Time

Now that I’m back in Iowa and finally over my jet lag, I decided to go to … the Netherlands. Well, not actually the Netherlands, but pretty close: Tulip Time in Pella, Iowa.

IowaGirl readers will already know that I’m a big fan of Pella, because I wrote about the cheese and pastry shops and historical museum at Christmas time…and I made another run to the bakery when I visited nearby Knoxville to review Peacetree Brewing. It’s one of my favorite places to go.

But it’s been a very long time since I actually went to Pella during Tulip Time. Maybe 12 years ago? I have gotten into the habit of visiting Pella each year the weekend BEFORE Tulip Time. That way, I get to see all the tulips and shop for pastries but avoid the crowds.

I decided to suck it up and actually attend Tulip Time this year because it’s such a spring tradition in Iowa, and because if you don’t go on the actual weekend you miss all the wonderful Dutch costumes and the food vendors.

I should mention that there’s a lot more to do at Tulip Time than smell tulips, eat, and watch the twice-daily parades. It’s a big three-day festival. There are museum tours, art exhibits, a quilt show, 5K run/walk, car show, city tours, flower show, kids’ activities, concerts, and a grandstand show. I am sure they are all delightful. I think every man, woman, and child in Pella is somehow involved in the celebration.

We arrived on Friday afternoon and took advantage of the shuttle parking on the outskirts of town so as to avoid having to fight for a parking place. Our first destination was the food vendors clustered on the side streets. Most of the vendors were selling typical state fair food (walking tacos, pork chop on a stick, burgers, spiral potatoes, funnel cakes). I wanted something unique. We finally found the poffertje stand and bought a dozen of the hot little Dutch pancakes sprinkled with powdered sugar. You can also order them with strawberries and whipped cream. Later, I bought some stroopwafels — thin waffle-like wafers filled with a honey caramel layer.

The tulips were beautiful this year…a little further along than when I normally see them, but fully open and colorful from one end of the town to the other. The beds at Scholte Gardens are my favorites.

People were lined up for the 2:30 p.m. parade long before the parade began. I first thought I’d sit in the grass on the north side of the square, but then the mothers with numerous wailing toddlers and their oversized strollers invaded my space, and I had to move. I ended up standing at the intersection right across from the grandstand on the south side of the square. I watched the parade for quite awhile…loved the Dutch costumes and the many, many adorable children (it seems like there is quite a Fertility Club in Pella).

There were some nice floats, with the Royal Court, cheese and flower vendors, street scrubbers, and much more. It was a long parade. I got bored after a time and decided to go stand in line at Jaarsma’s Bakery before the parade ended and the line would become totally unmanageable. Even during the parade, the line was halfway down the block. But seriously, you can’t go to Pella without going to the bakery.

My feet hurt by this time (note to self: although Pella is a small town, you will do a lot of walking at Tulip Time, so wear appropriate footwear) so we decided to take the shuttle back to our car.

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