Tulip Time in Pella, Iowa

Our oldest daughter lives in Iowa, 20 minutes from the town of Pella.  Owning a construction business, the only thing we knew about Pella is the window factory that is located there.  However, Pella has a fascinating history and this is showcased the first week-end of May in an annual celebration called Tulip Time. First a bit of history…

In April of 1847, Rev. Hendrik Scholte and 850 of his follower left Holland in search of religious freedom.  They arrived in America and traveled to Albany, New York and then to St. Louis, Missouri.  However, the heat, contaminated food, and lack of cleanliness claimed numerous lives.  The Dutch pilgrims began searching for land that would be suitable for a permanent settlement.  Rev. Scholte felt that God had a pre-destined place for them to settle.  Through an acquaintance, the reverend was introduced to a Baptist minister who was familiar with Iowa. Since most of the congregation were farmers by trade, it was felt that they would have a better chance to farm in Iowa rather than Michigan or Illinois.  They found suitable land but it was already owned by settlers.  Each parcel of land was negotiated for sale and included the existing crops and livestock.  They even purchased land along the Des Moines River, in hopes that it would one day be navigated by steam boat.

With the land purchased, the congregation arrived and set about establishing the city of Pella. It was named for a city where Jewish followers of Jesus fled for refuge before Romans destroyed Jerusalem.  Rev. Scholte wanted this city to be a refuge for persecuted people.  It was established on 18 acres on the highest land so the lights would be visible in the distance,  The original streets had names like Peace, Liberty, and Union, as well as names reflecting the struggle of the congregation, such as Perseverance, Expectation, and Accomplishment.

Each May, the city of Pella celebrates it’s Dutch heritage with Tulip Time.  The first gathering was in 1935 and wooden tulips were used as decorations.  Since we were visiting nearby, we decided to check out this celebration. We took our son Jade, grandchildren Whitney and Wyatt, and their friend Lane.

We arrived a few hours early before the afternoon parade.  We put out our blankets and then went to see the tulips, eat some food, and watch some of the festivities.

Tulip Time preparations start the previous fall with the planting of between 200,000 and 300,000 tulip bulbs. Most of the bulbs are planted around or near the town square.  We were in luck that the weather had cooperated and the tulips were in full bloom.

New tulip varieties are planted in the square and labeled.

We took the obligatory picture in front of the windmill as well as the large wooden shoes.

We enjoyed the various displays in the Pella Square.

Tulip Time has numerous food vendors, selling everything from sausage, to snow cones, to poffertjes (tiny, fluffy pancakes).

The poffertjes were our favorite and it was fascinating how they were made.

There is a grandstand area that is paid seating.  However, you can still watch the activities from outside the fence.  There were cheese races…


And the presentation of the Queen and her Court…

Time for the parade…

There were bands…

Lots of Queens

Displays of Dutch heritage

Veterans were honored

Beautiful floats

There were some fun parade entries as well.

People of all ages walked in traditional clothing, with most of the surrounding schools participating.

But most important, there were lots of wooden shoes!!!

Jaarsma’s Bakery handed out cookies samples, however, there was an hour long wait at the Pella store, so we grabbed cookies after the parade in Oskaloosa. A perfect way to end the day.

We had a great day at Tulip Time.  We didn’t even get to the vendor area or all of the food.  Next time we will plan to spend all day and watch the evening electric parade.