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 annual selfie with Harry who plays with the DMCS band in the parade.
A selfie with the Burgermeister!
Dominie Scholte was a big supporter of Civil War vets. I took this shot with some guys portraying Civil War soldiers at the festival.
Our friend Brian (the Tulip Time “Crier”).
Hangin’ in Sinterklaas in this historical village.
Our perch on the porch of the Scholte House Museum.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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..
Brush with greatness. Our friend, Shanae who was on the Tulip Court this year.
We’re just wild about Harry!
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!”
Our friends Shane and Olivia Burch.
Courtesy of Designer Images
Courtesy of Designer Images
Waiting for our horse.
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.
The Roose crew visited on Friday.
Hanging with Mom Hall at Gma VH’s apartment.
Our treat after a hot afternoon parade… a rest in the Heineken Loft.
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!).
Dinner in the courtyard of The Cellar Peanut Pub.
Courtyard entrance to The Cellar.
The Iowa Craft Beer team set up to serve in the Cellar’s converted garage.
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.
They claim to know God, but by their actions they deny him. Titus 1:16a
There is this thing we call “Iowa Nice.” It’s an attitude, really. There are no classes that teach it, and no strict definition. It’s a generalization that comes through the generations. It comes up out of the soil and permeates our being, though it’s not universal. While there are always a few bad corn kernels in every bushel, the people of Iowa are pretty hospitable folk. We’re happy to help if you need it. We are kind and accommodating, even to strangers. We’re just…well…nice.
I thought about Iowa nice this morning as I read Paul’s letter to Titus. Paul had left Titus on the island of Crete to organize the various groups of Jesus followers into some semblance of organization. Titus’ job was to appoint “Overseers” (think Pastor) who would “manage the household” of believers and “Elders” who were spiritually mature leaders. Paul provides qualifications, but then acknowledges Titus’ challenge to find such individuals among the Cretans.
The people of Crete did not have a great reputation. In contrast to “Iowa Nice,” Paul quotes a Cretan prophet who claims: “Cretans are always liars, evil brutes, lazy gluttons.” Yikes. Titus is to find, among this group, those who are hospitable, self-controlled, and upright. You can almost hear Paul’s subtext: “Good luck with that.” Among Paul’s disparaging descriptive remarks about many of the Cretans is the fact that they “claim to know God, but by their actions deny them.”
What a great reminder this morning as I head into the week of our local Tulip Time festival here in Pella. I am not perfect, to be sure, but I would hope that I my actions will always bear witness to the faith that I claim – not deny it. I and my fellow residents will spend three entire days this week playing host to thousands of visitors and treating them to a generous dose of “Iowa Nice.” My desire is that my hospitality will always be a reflection of Jesus, who exemplified hospitality when He welcomed this stranger into His family.