Tag Archives: Tulip Time

The Latest: June ’20 to May ’21

Wendy and I arrived at the lake last night. We’re getting things ready for our annual Memorial Day Weekend celebration with the JPs and VLs. Hello summer!

The last time I posted on “The Latest” was just about a year ago, and what a year it has been. 2020 was the year of COVID-19 and we weathered the storm like everyone else while managing to do so with our close family and friends.

Here are the highlights from the last year… the year of Covid.

June 2020 in Kansas City

Wendy and I enjoyed a really strange weekend in Kansas City amidst the pandemic. We went to see our longtime friends, Matt and Tara. Despite a narrow list of things we could do, we managed to get out for a wonderful evening with our friends and enjoy Covid-KC.

Grandma Vander Hart Turns 93

In July of 2020 the Vander Hart family gathered to celebrate Henrietta’s 93rd birthday. Since none of her children are in Pella anymore, Wendy has been helping her with her daily needs, shopping, doctor’s appointments, and etc. Wendy says with all the years Grandma watched her when she was a kid, she’s glad she has this opportunity to return the love.

Fourth of the July at the Lake

The JPs, VLs, and Schempers joined us at the lake for the Fourth of July this past year. Wendy and I actually spent less time at the lake last summer than ever. We got down just for the holiday weekends.

College Reunion

For the past few years my college roommate, Steve Elliott, and I have been talking about actually getting together. In July, we made it happen by meeting each other half-way in Galena, IL. Steve drove his wife’s Mustang convertible and we spent the afternoon exploring the backroads of the Mississippi River valley through northwest Illinois and southwest Wisconsin, making a stop when we stumbled upon a craft brewery.

Labor Day Weekend at the Lake

While Memorial Day and Fourth of July are typically family affairs, the Labor Day weekend has been a traditional adult weekend for the JPs, VLs, and V-Dubs. Always a nice way to celebrate the end of summer. Even summer of COVID.

Tay and Clay’s Highlands Wedding with a Stegosaurus

It was a beautiful wedding. We wish we could have been there. We wish anyone could have been there. Taylor and Clayton had hoped to have a private ceremony in Edinburgh with their close friends and then a quiet dinner. Then lockdowns nixed that. So, they opted for an even more private ceremony in the middle of the Scottish highlands with just the photographer and Milo. Milo requested to be a Stegosaurus for the special occasion, so, why not (at least for part of the time)?

Autumn Trip to Austin, Texas

Long before anyone had heard of the Coronavirus, we had scheduled a trip to Austin with our friends Kev and Beck. We had to do so to secure the lodging we wanted. We were determined to do enjoy what we could. As is always the case with the four of us, Beck had thoroughly investigated options and restrictions in order to structure an entire calendar of “fun” places where we could do what we love: enjoy good food, good drink, and good conversation.

Crowning a New Tulip Queen

A couple of years ago I was asked to be Master of Ceremonies for Pella’s annual Tulip Queen Announcement Party (TQAP), which is to say “it’s not a pageant!” Realizing that I’d had a blast doing it and would be doing it again, Wendy decided to sign-on for a six-year stint as a member of the TQAP Committee. So it was that we enjoyed working with the 13 young ladies (who were all amazing) to prepare for their presentations and I was honored to announce the new Tulip Queen and her Court for Pella’s 2021 Tulip Time.

Thanksgiving 2020

Thanksgiving was a quiet family gathering at our house for a small gathering of Wendy’s family.

Christmas and Covid 2020

Wendy and I felt so blessed to have the whole fam at our house for Christmas, and an entire Christmas Day together. Tay, Clay, and Milo arrived in early December. They spent a few weeks with us, and a few weeks with other family. Madison and Garrett arrived in time for Christmas. Ya-Ya (Grandma Wendy) enjoyed Milo being her little helper with Christmas cookies, smoothies, and other cooking duties. We had a Christmas cookie decorating contest and the adults all participated in a Christmas cocktail contest. There were no losers.

To honest, Wendy’s birthday was overshadowed this year as she played hostess, baker, cook, and caretaker. Nevertheless, her heart was full of joy. We even took the rare opportunity of being together to have some family portraits taken.

Christmas Day began with opening stockings before Ya-Ya’s amazing Christmas breakfast complete with cinnamon rolls. Gifts were opened and we enjoyed an equally amazing charcuterie spread for lunch/dinner as we binged on The Crown. I got to use the nifty Lifegoo precision screwdriver set in my stocking to repair Lightning McQueen for Milo.

The Andersons headed back and the Vander-Boeyinks headed to Des Moines for a week of Christmas celebrations with family there. Wendy and I had originally scheduled a cruise to celebrate our 15th Anniversary (New Year’s Eve) but that had long-since been cancelled. I believe we spent a quiet evening at home and went to bed early.

The ‘Rona came to our house on January 3rd with Tay, Clay and Milo’s return. All five of us ended up getting it. Taylor, Wendy, and I had relatively minor, flu-like symptoms. For me it was a day-or-two with body aches followed by a few weeks with zero-energy. Clay and Milo were asymptomatic. Their return to Scotland got delayed due to our quarantine together, and we made the best of our unexpected, extended family time. They eventually flew back to the UK in February.

Getting Out of Dodge

In February, Kev and I were commiserating about feeling a mutual case of cabin fever due to COVID. Deciding we’d like to look at different walls for a few days, we scooted down to the lake for a week of guy-time and working remotely from a different location.

Lake Work Weekend

We returned to the lake in April for a work weekend with the JPs and VLs. It’s hard to believe that it’s been over a decade since we built the Playhouse and there was a fairly decent list of things that needed sprucing up, repaired, updated, and improved.

JP discovered that our dock had been torn from the gangway due to the low water level this winter. He, along with our neighbor, got it repaired. There was a lot of power-washing, labeling, clearing out, and organization.

It also happened to be Shay’s birthday that weekend, so we celebrated the senorita at our favorite local Mexican haunt at the lake.

Easter 2021

Easter was a quiet affair at our house. My folks and Wendy’s folks came to Pell and Grandma Vander Hart joined us for a light lunch and an afternoon of family time. It was so good to have my parents here. They spent so much of the year in lockdown in their senior community. To actually have them physically present was such a blessing.

Weekend in “COLA”

Wendy and I headed to South Carolina in April to spend a long weekend with Madison and G. It was our first time in SC since their wedding in October of 2019, and the first visit to the house they purchased last year. We also got to meet our grand dog, Bertha. Madison arranged for both Wendy and me to have facials at the salon where she works, Pout.

We enjoyed a quiet weekend and enjoyed some great restaurants in Columbia. G’s family were in town that weekend and we all got together for breakfast on Saturday morning. It was nice to spend time with them, as well. G demonstrated his grilling skills for us before we left on Sunday, and on the way to the airport we stopped to pick-up a new grand dog, a puppy named Hazel.

April Birthdays

I got to wear a sombrero like Shay, when my bud Matthew took me out for lunch to celebrate my birthday at the end of April. Actually, Kev, Beck and I all have birthdays within 13 days of one another, so it’s become a tradition to get together to celebrate each year. This year the celebration was in Pella. We enjoyed some time at the Peanut Pub and the rooftop of Butcher’s Brewhuis before retiring to Vander Well Manor with George’s Pizza.

Tulip Time and Mother’s Day2021

There was a modified Tulip Time this year, but at least it didn’t get completely cancelled like it did last year. Wendy and did our annual turn as Pella’s founding couple. We make a couple of pop-up appearances each day of the festival to give a little spiel about the history of Pella. There was a great turnout for the festival and, as usual, we got stopped many times each day to have our pictures taken with new friends from all over.

Not to be redundant, but the year of Covid-19 was a year of a lot of redundancy in so many ways. Mother’s Day (the Sunday of Tulip Time weekend) we hosted Wendy’s grandma, folks, and my folks. Wendy’s brother, Josh, was also back in Iowa for a visit. We had a light lunch and shared family stories around the table. It was good, once again, just to be together.

And, there you have it. The highlights of the past year. More memories to be made this weekend as Memorial Day kicks off another summer.

“LandBNB.ORG”

Dear friend, you are faithful in what you are doing for the brothers and sisters, even though they are strangers to you. They have told the church about your love. Please send them on their way in a manner that honors God.
3 John 5-6

A few months ago our friend asked to use our house to throw a semi-surprise party for his wife. It was a blast. This past Saturday, Wendy and I were blessed to host members of her family from out of town for lunch. Tonight we have friends staying with us for the night in our home. This Friday evening a small group of Wendy’s oldest and dearest friends are having a girls’ night at our house. Had it not been for the COVID-19 pandemic, this weekend would have been our little town’s annual Tulip Time festival. Our house would typically have been filled with family for the weekend.

Hospitality is something that Wendy does extremely well, and something that we enjoy doing together. One of the motivating factors for building our house was the simple ability to provide hospitality for others. Relatives, friends, children, friends of children, and even friends of friends have stayed with us. The blessing is ours.

The realities of the Jesus movement in its first 300 years are typically lost on modern readers. The tens of thousands of Jesus’ followers met regularly in people’s homes scattered across the Roman Empire. Communication was poor making organization and oversight difficult, and sometimes impossible. That’s why much of what we refer to as the “Books” of the New Testament are actually letters that were written to be delivered, read, and sometimes copied and broadcast to all the other house churches of all the other believers. The letters would have to be carried, and the deliverer(s) (for safety is was common to send two) would need lodging and food. Inns were not great places in those days and typically doubled as brothels. It was imperative that the network of house churches double as the “LandBnB.org” of that day, offering safe lodging and hospitality for fellow believers.

Today’s chapter is another short letter that tradition ascribes to John. It is essentially a letter of recommendation for Demetrius to a house church leader named Gaius. The letter commends Gaius for his reputation as a Five-Star hospitality provider (compared to the One-Star rating John gave to another house church leader named Diotrephes). His letter provided Gaius with John’s Five-Star rating of Demetrius as a guest.

In the quiet this morning I find myself thinking about the gift and art of hospitality. Sure, AirBnB and others have turned many private residences into pseudo-inns for profit. That’s cool, but that’s not the kind of hospitality out of generosity that John was calling upon from Gaius. The “LandBnB.org” that John and early believers depended upon was a non-profit enterprise founded on generosity. Providing a warm and comfortable place that’s generously given with hospitable blessing truly is, I believe, a spiritual gift. And, as Wendy and I have discovered, the profit is joy.

The Way of Love

…walk in the way of love…
Ephesians 5:2 (NIV)

This past weekend was Pella’s annual Tulip Time festival. As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, Wendy and I spent the weekend volunteering as did most everyone else we know. Our town was packed with thousands of tourists and visitors, and that always brings out all sorts of interesting people and groups. There were news crews from all over, a crew shooting a movie, a counterfeiter trying to pass fake twenties to various street vendors, and street preachers  screaming hellfire and brimstone through their little powered speakers.

I was at a meeting last night with several of my fellow Jesus followers from here in town. I found it interesting that no mention was made of the news crews, the movie crew shooting in the crowd, or the man arrested for counterfeiting. It was the street preachers that inspired conversation.

As I listened to people share, I found that others experienced the same frustration I did as I passed by and heard the street preacher’s rhetoric. They were preaching condemnation and judgement. It was all fear and accusation. Someone from my group shared that they had attempted to engage the preacher and ask about his approach. “Everyone knows about Jesus’ love,” he was reported to have replied. “What they don’t know is the fear of judgement.”

Along my life journey I have found just the opposite to be true. While there are exceptions to every general rule, I’ve observed that most people judge and condemn themselves, or else they have acutely experienced the judgement and condemnation of others. Often, they are judged and condemned by individuals who are supposed to love them the most, such as a parent, a sibling, or a close relative.

I’ve also observed that most people don’t know really know and experience Jesus’ love in its gracious, unconditional form. I believe a large number of Jesus’ followers walk the way of religious, transactional merit. Good behavior is rewarded with blessing and bad behavior exacts a curse, and they’re just hoping the scales tip the right way in the end.

Last night’s conversation ended with a story from a friend who shared that they had heard personally of a suicidal adult who was quite literally at the point of deciding one day that instead of ending it all they would visit Tulip Time. That day a sweet, smiling young child in a dutch costume walked up and gave them a tulip. That simple act of kindness set this person on the path of life change (i.e. repentance) which led to the way of love, redemption, and restoration.

As I read this morning’s chapter it struck me that Paul did not say we should walk this life journey on the way of holiness, the way of purity, the way of religion, the way of judgment, the way of condemnation, or the way of fear. To be sure, things like holiness, purity, and obedience are good things asked of all Jesus’ followers. However, Paul reminded the believers in Corinth that it is the activating ingredient of love that makes any of those things worthwhile. Without the activating ingredient of love, those things become spiritually worthless.

I’m also reminded this morning of another thing Paul wrote to the believers in Rome, that it is “kindness that leads to repentance.” The hellfire and brimstone street preachers must have missed that part.

I’m glad to know that a little child in a Dutch costume got it right.

The Latest 05-06-2019

Oh my, it’s been a while since I’ve given a little update on what’s happening in our journey. Here’s a brief summary from this spring:

A New Member of the Family

Garrett proposing to Madison on the Isle of Skye in Scotland.

Madison and her boyfriend, Garrett, were in Scotland this past week paying a visit to Taylor, Clayton, and Milo. A day trip to the Isle of Skye provided a ridiculously stunning setting for Garrett to pop the question to Madison. We’re excited to welcome Garrett into our wonderfully messy family. An autumn wedding in South Carolina is planned.

The Scotland Crew

We are missing Tay, Clay, and Milo terribly. Thank God for FaceTime. Though, no matter how hard we try, we can’t reach through the screen and hug them. Clayton’s academic work is going well. He’s publishing on multiple fronts, has facilitated both undergraduate and graduate classes, and is trying to work on his dissertation in between everything else. Taylor has gone full-time working for Storii and is traveling around the UK conducting on-boarding training for different care facilities. Milo is cuter than ever and he melts my heart every time he looks and me on FaceTime and says, “Papa!” We’re still working on “Yaya.”

Little Milo in his red jacket exploring Scotland.

A Week in So-Cal

Enjoyed exploring the Gaslamp District in San Diego.

Our Spring Break was spent in Southern California this year. Wendy and I jetted to the west coast for a few days in San Diego followed by  a few days (and St. Patrick’s Day!) in Palm Springs with our friends Kevin and Linda. The agenda for the week was simple. We walked, explored, enjoyed good food, good drink, and a wonderful time with friends. We were excited when our friend, Ann, drove up to Palm Springs from Yuma, to spend an afternoon with us.

April Birthdays

Celebrating April Birthdays at The Stuffed Olive.

Our friends Kevin and Beck both have April birthdays, and so do I. Over the past few years we’ve made it a point of celebrating all three birthdays together. This year was a little tough to fit it in with four very busy schedules, but we managed to steal a few hours at one of our favorite places. Wendy provided the party favors and, as always, a good time was had by all.

Celebrating April Birthdays at The Stuffed Olive.

Tulip Time 2019

We just finished Pella’s annual Tulip Festival this past weekend. Once again Wendy and I portrayed our town’s founding couple. We greeted tourists, had our picture taken a million times, and were in five of the festival’s six parades. We also hosted Aunt Linda, Uncle Gary & Aunt Fern, Uncle Brad and Aunt Barb, Mom Hall here at the house for various nights.

Our participation in Tulip Time was limited this year because we found ourselves making a movie and hosting a couple of the members of the film crew, but more about that in a subsequent post.

The weekend was perfect this year. The tulips and trees were all blooming and peaking at the same time. The weather was a little overcast on Thursday and Friday, but pleasant. Saturday was sunny and warm.

Reprising a Few Roles

The Herzog Crew from “Stage” 2019

Wendy and I have not been actively involved in community theatre the last few years as we’ve transitioned our time and energy to work and other endeavors. We were asked, however, to reprise a couple of pieces for a variety show at the end of March. We performed one of our scenes (Getting it Back) from Almost, Maine. I also performed Green Stuff from the musical The Christmas Post.

Tulip Time 2018

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.

…and a Time to Return

Set up road markers for yourself,
    make yourself signposts;
consider well the highway,
    the road by which you went.
Jeremiah 31:21 (NRSVCE)

A few years ago I had the privilege of watching as a play I wrote was produced a couple of different times on stage. Having spent most of my life journey in the state of Iowa, I’ve observed a repetitive theme of those who leave our rather quiet, fly-over homeland for more exciting places. Yet, eventually, most every one returns home. The reasons for return are as varied as the individuals who leave, but for most every one who leaves there comes a time to return.

There is a good story there,” I thought to myself. And so, I sat down to write a play and tell the story of a small town Iowa boy who is forced to come home. In his returning he must confront his past and the reasons he left in the first place.

Over the past few chapters in the anthology of Jeremiah’s messages, I’ve mulled over the way the themes of wilderness and exile play into life’s journey. There’s a corollary theme in the return from wilderness and exile. Just as the hero of every epic spends time in the wilderness, so that same hero must return to carry out the purposes for which he/she has been prepared.

In today’s chapter, the theme of Jeremiah’s prophetic letter to the exiles living in Babylon is all about their homecoming. “Drop breadcrumbs along the road to Babylon,” he tells them. “Mark the way because the time will come for your return home.”

Sometimes on this life journey I’ve observed that the return home is long awaited and desired, just as Jeremiah describes in today’s chapter. Other times, like the prodigal son, one’s homecoming is filled with remorse and repentance. Then there are those times when the return home is part of a larger story about the necessary confrontation required in order to progress yet further on life’s road. And, I suppose, there are times when coming home is a cocktail of all these.

As this morning dawns, the little town where Wendy and I live is preparing for our annual Tulip Time festival. As happens each year there will be hundreds, perhaps even thousands, of individuals who will return home to participate in the festivities (we’ll have some of them staying in our house!). I’m thinking about their respective life journeys, the varied stories they represent, and all of the emotions (and perhaps confrontations) that these homecomings will entail. There is a time to leave home, and a time for those living in exile to return.

I’m whispering a prayer in the quiet this morning for each of them, and for God’s goodness and mercy in each of their respective stories.

Pella Tulip Time 2017

This past weekend was the annual Tulip Time festival in our little hometown of Pella, Iowa. On the first weekend of May we celebrate our Dutch heritage with three days of Tulips, Dutch pastries, Dutch costumes, parades and lots of tradition. I can’t remember three more perfect days for Tulip Time. We had sun and temps in the 60s and 70s. This translated into record setting crowds and a wonderful time.

During Tulip Time most residents of Pella dress in traditional Dutch costumes and volunteer in a myriad of ways. For the past three years Wendy and I have dressed as our town’s founding couple, Dominie (that’s Dutch for “Pastor”) Hendrik P. Scholte and his wife Maria, who led hundreds of followers from the Netherlands to the Iowa Prairie in 1847.

As always, Wendy and I had a ball hanging out at the Scholte House Museum welcoming visitors to “our” home. And, we enjoyed riding in the parades, greeting friends who came home for the fun, and meeting people from all over the world who came to join in the festivities. While we celebrate our Dutch heritage, Tulip Time is a slice of Americana that feels like it popped right off a Norman Rockwell cover of the Saturday Evening Post.

 

We Need More Festivals

Thus Moses declared to the people of Israel the appointed festivals of the Lord.
Leviticus 23:44 (NRSV)

For going on nearly a century, our small Iowa town has held a Tulip Festival every May. Everything stops for three days as residents pour their time and energy into the tens of thousands of visitors who descend on our community. Make no mistake, the festival is all about promotion and commerce. It’s the major fundraiser of the year for most of our community organizations. Nevertheless, I think everyone in our town would agree that the festival is much more than that. It celebrates our history, our heritage, and it promotes a strong sense of community and a spirit of service within it.

Festival is just a fun word. From the Latin word for “feast,” the root word is defined as “cheerful and jovially celebratory.” Who doesn’t want that? That’s one of the reasons Wendy and I wanted to get married on New Year’s Eve. What a great evening to celebrate our lives and love through time.

I find it interesting that God would program into His people’s calendar a series of “festivals.” At the top of the list is the weekly day of Sabbath or rest. The weekly day of rest was supposed to be a festival, but over time the religious people turned it into its own version of burdensome religious toil. Jesus got more grief from religious leaders about breaking Sabbath rules than anything else He said or did. The uptight religious people had perverted a festival of rest into a weekly religious burden. That was never its intention and Jesus knew it.

I can’t say that the institutional church and Jesus’ followers have done much better with our weekly day of worship which was moved from the Jewish sabbath on Saturday to the day of Jesus’ resurrection on Sunday. Each Sunday is supposed to be a festival of resurrection, but I wouldn’t describe the weekly mood in many churches as “festive.”

I knew a family who decided to try and instill this understanding of Sunday being a festival of Jesus’ resurrection in their young children. They began early in the week looking in anticipation of Sunday as a special day of celebration. Every Saturday night (the eve of Resurrection Day) they had a special family meal that the children helped plan during the week. Guests were invited to join them. They decorated with bright colors and had special desserts. There was a large brass chandelier fixture in their dining room with long swooping arms. At the end of the weekly Resurrection Eve dinner all of the meal participants would stand with a party popper, point it at the chandelier and pull their popper so that the colorful streamers would hit the chandelier and get caught on the arms. There the streamers would stay so that each week day the children would see the colorful remnant of their weekly feast and look forward to the next.

The family celebrated getting to worship on Sunday and celebrate the Resurrection. They planned special moments together on Sunday as well. Believe me. The day I was a guest in their home, the children couldn’t wait for their weekly Saturday night and Sunday festival.

This morning I’m thinking about the fact that we don’t do more to make personal festivals a way to mark special days, seasons, heritage, and history that is meaningful to us and our loved ones. Festivals are fun as well as meaningful. Who doesn’t love a nice feast in which to be cheerful and jovially celebratory? Let’s plan a little festival and invite our loved ones.

chapter a day banner 2015

Featured image by metku via Flickr

The Latest 05-22-2016

It seems a long time since I’ve posted “the latest.” Tulip Time feels like it was ages ago despite it only being two weeks. After getting through our performances of Almost, Maine and then our Pella Tulip Time duties, Wendy I were ready to get our heads back into some semblance of normal routine. We did have one more appearance to make as the Dominie and Mareah Scholte for a meeting of Pella Corporation executives and board members at the Scholte House.

It was wonderful to have Madison and her boyfriend, Matt, with us at Tulip Time. Matt left for his return trip to Colorado on Sunday and Madison spent Sunday with her mother. On Monday I drove to Des Moines and had lunch with Madison before she was to fly out to her new home in South Carolina. Taylor joined us at Palmer’s Deli with her nannying charge, Joel. We all headed over to Grandpa Dean and Grandma Jeanne’s for a visit before taking Madison to the airport.

I will admit that Wendy and I spent the week after Tulip Time decompressing. There were things at home and at work that required attention, but our evenings were blissfully quieter than they had been in a long time. It’s been an enjoyable time for Wendy and me to reconnect and spend quiet evenings in one another’s company sans the responsibility of doing this or that for Union Street Players or Pella Historical or Third Church or whomever. We even had a date one night, just the two of us. Dinner at Kaldera followed by a movie at Vander Well Pub [sigh]. It’s been wonderful.

Contraband Cuban Cohiba Cigar
Thanks to the friend, who shall remain nameless, who gifted me with my first contraband Cuban cigars which were procured on travels abroad.

Our new lawn is growing like proverbial weeds and I feel like I’m mowing every 2-3 days to keep up. Between the frequent rain we’ve received and my work/travel schedule, I have to “make hay while the sun shines.” I mowed last Sunday. Afterwards I relaxed on the patio with the last of my contraband Cuban cigars that were a gift from a dear friend while enjoying a long phone conversation with Madison.

This past week was hectic work-wise. I have two different training programs that I delivered in three presentations. Then it was off to Minnesota for a long day and a half of call coaching and training. When I returned from “The Land of 10,000 Lakes” on Friday I barely had an hour to unpack, repack and jump in the truck with friends Chad and Justin for a jaunt to the lake.

We are so blessed with friends who have joined us in embracing our little Playhouse as an annual retreat. It was JP who suggested last fall that we have a guys weekend to resurface the swim dock. The platform desperately needed some new treated lumber sans the rusty old nails that have held the current swim dock together since, seemingly, the age of Noah.

The guys and I arrived at the lake late on Friday and woke early on Saturday to begin a very full day of construction. A trip to Menards in Osage Beach was required to get the necessary lumber and then work commenced pulling up the old decking and replacing it with the new. Chad took care of the meals for us over the weekend and earned the worthy nickname “Cookie” as we were capably well-fed. The white chocolate raspberry cheesecake Wendy sent along was frosting on the cake for our menu. Not only was the swim dock resurfaced, but the gangway to the dock received new decking!

The boys were very tired by the time Saturday evening rolled around, but we had been really blessed with a perfect day to “git ‘er done.” It was a gorgeous evening and we enjoyed grilled chicken breasts and rice on the deck as we listened to our beloved Cubbies drop a game to the San Francisco Giants. We started a movie, but everyone was quickly nodding off.

It was another gorgeous morning this a.m. and we enjoyed coffee and rest on the deck as the sun climbed a cloudless sky and the lake presented a mirror-like calm. The guys took off for home late morning and left me to do some pick-up and cleaning around the Playhouse. Wendy drove down and arrived late in the afternoon.

We’re looking forward to a week of working remotely from the lake.

Pella Tulip Time 2016

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.

Thursday morning of Tulip Time. Just knew it was going to be a good weekend.
Thursday morning of Tulip Time. Just knew it was going to be a good weekend.

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 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!”

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.

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!).

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.