This year’s annual Tulip Time festival was perhaps the nicest I can remember. The tulips were more gorgeous than any year I recall with almost all of the tulip beds peaking at just the right time and a few that were still starting to bloom. They were absolutely gorgeous!
For the fourth straight year Wendy and I got in costume to portray our little town’s founding couple, Dominie (that’s Dutch for “Pastor”) H.P. and Mareah Scholte. We spent each morning standing in front of the Scholte House museum welcoming visitors and then strolled the streets having our picture taken by countless visitors. We rode in the parades each afternoon. An intense Iowa thunderstorm, complete with Tornado warning, washed out the Thursday evening parade and festivities. Otherwise, the weather for the weekend was perfect.
We typically got out of costume once the afternoon parade was over. It was our chance to enjoy some grub from our favorite food stands, have a pint at the pub, and visit with friends.
Along with Tulip Time activities, we also hosted a bunch of family who came to town. Wendy’s mom and Aunt Linda stayed with us Thursday night. Uncle Brad and Aunt Barb stayed with us Friday and Saturday nights. Suzanna also came down Saturday and ended ups spending the night. My parents and sister Jody came down for the fun on Saturday and then returned home (with an armful of goodies from the Jaarsma bakery). By late Saturday afternoon Wendy I were pretty worn out. We bowed out of the final parade on Saturday night. Our friends Kevin and Linda, along with Suzanna, joined us on the patio to celebrate another wonderful Tulip Time.
Our perch on the porch of the Scholte House Museum.
Our friend Brian (the Tulip Time “Crier”).
Dominie Scholte was a big supporter of Civil War vets. I took this shot with some guys portraying Civil War soldiers at the festival.
Hangin’ in Sinterklaas in this historical village.
Our annual selfie with Harry who plays with the DMCS band in the parade.
The week after my birthday and the first weekend of May is really all about Pella’s Tulip Time Festival. For several years Wendy and I were regularly a part of a production that our community theatre, Union Street Players, produced for the thousands of visitors to our town. USP stopped doing Tulip Time productions a few years back and Wendy and I admittedly took a respite from volunteering for a few years. Guilt would set in as we wandered up to the square from our house, just a block away. We vowed that we needed to get in costume and volunteer. It takes a not-so-small army of volunteers to make this thing work, and at some point it would be time to play our parts once again. Ironic that we’re more involved now that we moved far away from our prime property just off the square.
Last year was the year to dive in. We volunteered to portray our town’s founders for the annual three day event, roles that we’ve played on stage multiple times. Last year we were in costume for 12-13 hours straight all three days, but discovered that it was a little much. The 1860s fashion was a little overwhelming to don all day. So, this year we vowed to do things a little differently.
Weather for the festival this year was pretty stellar. Thursday was sunny and relatively cool. Friday was the hot day with temps reaching near 90. Saturday was cooler, much more humid, and hazy. There was a brief sprinkle during the afternoon parade and an intermittent light rain during the evening parade, but the sun made regular appearances in between..
We’re just wild about Harry!
Brush with greatness. Our friend, Shanae who was on the Tulip Court this year.
We spent our mornings outside the Scholte House Museum greeting visitors and talking a few confused passers-by into giving the museum a try. And, we got our pictures taken somewhere in the neighborhood of 2,344,682 times. The most fun were the wandering gaggles of foreign visitors who would, as a group, whip out roughly a dozen or six cameras at the same time. Then, various members of the group would take turns running up to stand with us while cameras, cell phones, and iPads were hoisted like paparazzi next to the red carpet. Wendy said her face hurt from all the smiling! 😉
We took a brief break for lunch around noon and continued our duty outside the Scholte House until around 2:00 in the afternoon. We would then wander back across town in the early afternoon, stopping every 5.34 feet for another picture. I’m not sure how many international dialects I heard saying “One…Two…Three!”
Courtesy of Designer Images
Waiting for our horse.
Courtesy of Designer Images
Our friends Shane and Olivia Burch.
Courtesy of Designer Images
By 2:30 we were in our places to be picked up for the afternoon parade. Our horse drawn carriage (refurbished this year and sporting a beautiful sign) was actually pulled by the Tulip Queen’s horse. So we would sit behind the Historical Village and wait for the Queen to make her pilgrimage through the parade. The horse would quickly be switched from the Queen’s luxurious ride to our humble little four seater. It was rather comical getting Wendy in her HUGE hooped skirt to squeeze into the back seat of a carriage that had been designed for much smaller people. I joked that there wasn’t enough room for Wendy, her dress, and me. We would then take back streets to the beginning of the parade route and pray that we made it on time. We actually made it five out of the six parades this year.
It was fascinating to watch the crowds at each parade. They shift and change. The Thursday afternoon crowd is filled with seasoned citizens who arrived on one of an army of buses from around the Midwest. Thursday is always the lightest day from the sheer number of humans, and the Thursday evening parade feels like mostly locals with their families and visitors. Friday is the hybrid crowd. There are still a number of bus tour visitors, but there’s a growing number of diverse visitors from all over. By Friday evening, the after-work, weekend crowd had fully descended for a picture perfect Iowa night. The parade route on Friday evening was packed. Saturday is the crowd crazy day. The sea of humanity is varied, colorful, and a ton of fun. The Saturday afternoon parade had people packed deep the entire length of the parade route.
With Madison and Matt at the Heineken Loft in the Pella Opera House.
Our treat after a hot afternoon parade… a rest in the Heineken Loft.
Hanging with Mom Hall at Gma VH’s apartment.
The Roose crew visited on Friday.
After the afternoon parade it was time to get out of costume and enjoy being Tom and Wendy for a while. The difference between Tom & Wendy as Henry & Mareah Scholte and Tom & Wendy as Tom & Wendy Vander Well is quite a contrast, to be sure. On Thursday afternoon I had forgotten something in the Historical Society’s Curatorial Office where we’d changed back into our mild-mannered civilian selves. I returned to the office where a number of workers from the Historical Society were gathered in any number of official duties. One young woman who works for the Society thought I was a tourist and said to me, “I’m sorry sir, this house is not part of the tour!”
She was a big confused and taken aback when I simply smiled and said, “I know,” and walked right past her into the back room where we’d stored our belongings. When I returned she was still standing there looking confused and bit frustrated. As I passed by her I smiled and said, “You don’t recognize me out of my Dominie costume, do you?” It was then that it dawned on her who I was. I wish I had a picture of the shocked look on her face, before she began laughing and apologizing.
Our afternoons incognito began at the Heineken Loft in the Pella Opera House visiting with friends and relaxing in the air conditioned loft while we watched the festival pass by on the streets below. Then it was off to the food stands to try one of the many tempting options afforded by the food vendors at Tulip Time.
This year’s culinary surprises were the “Double Dutch” which Wendy had on Thursday night, and the Romanian Sausage sandwich I had on Saturday. The Double Dutch is a quarter pound hamburger topped with Gouda cheese, which then gets topped with a large slice of Pella bologna. Sounds a bit strange, I know. Wendy loved it. I only had a bit, but had to admit it was pretty delicious. Our friends from Pella’s Greek Orthodox Church sell a Romanian sausage sandwich. The recipe came from the the grandmother of one of the people in the parish and it had been highly recommended by our trustworthy City Council representative, Larry Peterson. Again, I was surprised at how good it was. Not something I would have ordered otherwise.
Of course, we also had to get our annual taste of the Tulip Time staples. Stroopwaffels, Poffertjes, Dutch Letters, corn dog, tenderloin…. You get the picture. Regular diet resumes sometime today (after we finish up a few of the leftovers!).
Courtyard entrance to The Cellar.
The Iowa Craft Beer team set up to serve in the Cellar’s converted garage.
Dinner in the courtyard of The Cellar Peanut Pub.
On Thursday night we took our supper from the food stands to the Cellar Peanut Pub’s courtyard. The Iowa Craft Beer truck was set up at the back of the Cellar’s garage and was serving a special wheat ale from Peace Tree Brewing in Knoxville that is made with wheat milled by Pella’s Vermeer Windmill. Everything the Cellar served on their 50+ taps during Tulip Time was from local Iowa breweries. It was a great addition to the Tulip Time offerings.
About 8:00 we were back at the Historical Village getting back into costume for the 8:30 parade. When the parade was over we would quick get to our car and try to navigate the back streets home before the parade was completely over.
It was good to see family and friends, as always. Taylor came to town late on Thursday and was supposed to join us again on Saturday until some kind of intestinal crud struck her. Madison and her boyfriend, Matt, arrived on Saturday morning for a cup of coffee together before Wendy and I headed into town. Madison had fun introducing Matt to everything Pella and we joined for some enjoyable conversation at the Heineken Loft in the late afternoon, then debriefed at home late into the night. Today was supposed to be kind of a 50th birthday celebration with the girls, but with Taylor down those plans got theoretically rained out just as my Cubs-centric birthday bash got rained out in both Chicago and Des Moines last weekend. I guess, once again, “there is no joy in Mudville.” C’est la vie.
Today is rest, recuperation, and reentry into routine. It’s been a fun week. Once again I shake my head in amazement at the unique community we’re blessed to call home.
This weekend is the annual Pella Tulip Time festival in our hometown of Pella, IA. Each year the community celebrates its Dutch heritage with parades, tours, and plenty of food and dutch treats. And of course, there are tulips, tulips and more tulips. The Tulip Time celebration started back in the 1935.
My grandfather, Herman Vander Well, was raised in northwest Iowa (Boyden/Hull/Rock Valley) and attended Central College in Pella between 1927 and 1929. Several years ago I came into the possession of his college photo album from those years. The black and white pictures were taken with his Kodak Brownie box camera. The album was donated by my family to the archives of Central College some years ago, but I retain the scanned images.
In the photo album there are several pictures of the “Advance” parade/festival that he and fellow Central students participated in on the town square. It was obviously a precursor to Tulip Time. So, for friends in Pella who are celebrating Tulip Time this weekend – here’s a Throwback Thursday to before there was Tulip Time.
My grandfather, Herman Vander Well with friend (unknown).
“Do all that you have in mind,” [Jonathan’s] armor-bearer said. “Go ahead; I am with you heart and soul.”1 Samuel 14:7 (NIV)
While a freshman in college, my roommate Kirk and I were asked to do patriotic readings at the local Veteran’s Day festitivities at the city center. We were asked to meet at the local American Legion Hall and ride the bus with the veterans to the parade route. We walked in the parade and then did our readings as part of a long agenda of civic dignitaries.
Other than my uncle who was a ship’s cook in the Korean War, my family does not have much of a history of military service. It was a strange experience for me to enter the American Legion Hall filled with old men in their black jackets and legion caps which detailed where they served. I keenly remember the man in the white cap, signifying he had served at Pearl Harbor on December 7th, 1941. It was 10:00 a.m. and our hosts shoved a fist full of free drink tickets into our hands. Kirk and I were under the legal drinking age and neither of us were drinkers so we gave our tickets away. It struck me, however, that many of these men were not only drinking when they were our age but were dodging bullets in Europe and the South Pacific.
I will admit that my Christian good boy sensibilities were taken aback at first with all of the early morning drinking. But, I sat and observed and struck up conversations with many of the Legion members. I watched these men swapping stories. I watched them laugh together. At different times I heard songs rising up from different places in the hall as they sang memories from marching and battle. It was the first time I’d ever witnessed that kind of deep comaraderie among men.
Soon we were on the bus headed to the parade. The bus seats were positioned so that Kirk and I were facing the back of the bus and staring at the two Legion members in the seat behind us. The older gentleman before me struck up a conversation. When I asked about where he served, he began to talk about being in World War II. It began as a cheerful retelling of where he was stationed and then quickly transitioned into some of the conflicts he survived. I watched as his eyes glassed over and and his brain receded into deep, abiding memories. Within moments he was staring silently out the bus window lost somewhere on the battlefield of his distant past. Tears began to flow down from his eyes and across his cheeks. He made no attempt to wipe them away and I made no attempt to disturb his thoughts. I simply watched until finally he looked back at me.
“Don’t ever get into another war,” he said in a soft whisper. He said no more.
As I read the response of Jonathan’s armor bearer in this morning’s chapter, I thought of that cold Veteran’s Day morning twenty-five years ago. “I am with you heart and soul,” the man said to his comrade in arms. I observed and experienced the heart and soul connection of men who had shared the experience of battle in that American Legion hall. I have not served in the military, nor have I had the experience of battle. The only conflicts I have experienced are spiritual and domestic. I will not pretend to equate or confuse the two.
I have, however, experienced the comaradarie of men who have shared my journey, my struggles, my life wounds, as well as my life’s victories. I have men in my life whom I know, if I asked them to follow me into difficult circumstance, would respond “I am with you heart and soul.” There are men whom I have not regularly spoken with in years who I could call in the middle of the night in need. Today, I am grateful for each one of them as I picture their faces and offer a silent prayer of thanks for each by name.
God places the lonely in families; he sets the prisoners free and gives them joy. Psalm 68:6a (NLT)
“Christmas is such a happy time of year,” Wendy said to me as we drove to rehearsal the other night. The Christmas lights on the businesses along Franklin Street were shining bright in the crisp night air and the Vermeer Windmill was decked out with all of its holiday decorations.
I wasn’t trying to be a Scrooge, but the first thought that came to my mind and my response to Wendy was “It’s not a happy time of year for everyone.” I know that the holidays can be incredibly stressful for some. For those who have lost loved ones or who struggle with loneliness, the holidays can be a time of increased anxiety and depression.
I can tell in the quiet this morning that my heart and mind have made the turn toward Advent. Advent comes from the latin term meaning “revealing.” It is traditionally the season followers of Jesus prepare their hearts each year to celebrate the birth of our Jesus on Christmas Day. Psalm 68 is a song of procession and was meant to be sung as people paraded to the temple to worship. It made me think about all of us who are making a procession towards Christmas. As I read the lyrics of the opening stanza of Psalm 68, I found it interesting those whom it describes in this processional to praise:
How appropriate, I think, for the downhearted to be called out for this parade. The whole reason for Christ to come as a baby, to live among us, to die for our sins, and to be raised back to life, is that which is broken in all of us might be healed. Consider that in His first public message, Jesus proclaimed his personal mission statement when He quoted these words:
“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
This morning I’m thinking about the upcoming Christmas holiday in relation to the downhearted, the lonely, the grieving, those in bondage to their destructive thoughts and behaviors, and those who are suffering emotionally and physically. As we proceed toward Christmas, I’m praying that those of us who are suffering. Instead of experiencing increased levels of loneliness, isolation, anxiety and pain, I’m praying for us all – myself absolutely included – to find the healing and hope which can be found wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.
“Shout and cheer, Daughter Zion! Raise the roof, Daughter Jerusalem! Your king is coming! a good king who makes all things right, a humble king riding a donkey, a mere colt of a donkey.”Zechariah 9:9 (MSG)
I think about the mental images in my mind of Kings and Generals marching victorious into their cities. I see in mind the rows upon rows of German troops with Hitler riding in his car up Paris’ Champs-Elysees’ with the Arc de Triomph in the background. I see American heroes riding through Manhattan, the sky so thick with ticker-tape that you’d think it was a blizzard. I envision massive crowds, starched dress uniforms, and and polished dress shoes reflecting the noonday sun like millions of tiny mirrors on the streets. I imagine the impressive site of row upon row of Roman legion with their bright red capes flowing in the wind as they march through the streets of Rome.
I contrast that with the fulfillment of Zechariah’s prophecy. I can picture King Jesus on a small donkey with his hapless parade of simpleton followers; Fishermen and yokels from out in the sticks north of Galilee marching into Jerusalem’s gate for the Passover. No wonder the mighty Roman Governor, Pontius Pilate, looked with incredulity when the beaten, bloody Jesus was brought to him by the religious power brokers less than a week later.
“This guy? A king?!” I can hear him say. “Seriously? You’ve got to be kidding me.”
Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place.” John 8:36 (NIV)
One of the things I love about Jesus, one of the things that leads me to believe that he is exactly who He claimed to be, is that He is not like any of the others my history books describe. He is a King, though not of this world.
Jesus is nothing that I have come to expect, and everything that I’ve discovered I need.