Experience the enchantment of the Tulip Time festival in Holland, Michigan—a captivating celebration of nature, culture, and community. This vibrant event, set against the picturesque shores of Lake Macatawa, paints the charming city with a breathtaking kaleidoscope of colors. As spring arrives, millions of iconic tulips burst into bloom, transforming Holland’s streets and parks into a symphony of vibrant hues. Spanning over a week, the Tulip Time festival not only showcases the region’s Dutch heritage but also pays homage to its longstanding tulip-growing tradition, which dates back to the 19th century.
The story of the tulip reaches far beyond the shores of Lake Michigan. Originating in Central Asia amidst the majestic peaks of the Himalayas, these wildflowers enchanted nomadic soldiers who collected their seeds and bulbs. These treasures traveled through Persia and Turkey, eventually taking root in the courts of Constantinople as early as 1055 AD. The tulip soon became a symbol of wealth and power in the Ottoman Empire, with its blooms adorning turbans. It didn’t take long for the allure of this flower to spread to the Netherlands.
In 1847, Albertus Van Raalte founded Holland, Michigan, and with the arrival of additional immigrants, the area’s loamy soil proved to be the perfect home for the tulip bulbs they brought in their luggage. Years later, a biology teacher named Lida Rodgers proposed the idea of mass tulip planting as a tribute to the city’s founding fathers. Inspired by her vision, 100,000 tulip bulbs were sown, and in May 1929, the first Tulip Time celebration bloomed into existence, forever intertwining the city’s identity with this majestic flower. Today, more than five million tulips bloom throughout Holland each spring.
One of the must-see attractions in Holland is the Windmill Island Gardens which is home to De Zwaan, the only authentic Dutch windmill operating in the United States, which still turns and grinds wheat into flour today. The windmill’s name is Dutch for The Swan or Graceful Bird.
Resolute Holland residents Willard Wichers and Carter Brown sought to pay homage to their city’s rich Dutch ancestry. Their mission was to bring a genuine Dutch windmill to Holland. However, a significant obstacle presented itself, as many of these monumental structures had fallen victim to the ravages of World War II. Consequently, the Dutch government imposed a ban on windmill sales outside the Netherlands. Unfazed by this setback, Wichers and his group obtained a unique exemption by selecting De Zwaan, a windmill in desperate need of restoration. Eventually, the Dutch government decided to sell De Zwaan to Wichers for $2800, marking the windmill as the final one to leave the Netherlands. Accompanied by a wealth of historical documentation provided by windmill authorities, the City of Holland unraveled the story of De Zwaan. Originally constructed in 1761 as a grain mill in Krommenie, Netherlands, it stood elegantly atop a raised base, designed to harness the wind’s power most effectively.
In October of 1964, De Zwaan embarked on a transoceanic voyage aboard the Prins Willem van Oranje. Upon reaching the shores of Muskegon Harbor, it was carefully unloaded and transported by truck to Windmill Island. Over the following six months, skilled craftsmen meticulously reconstructed the windmill, endeavoring to restore its original splendor. Instead of the earthen mound that had supported it in Vinkel, a raised base was erected, faithfully recreating the mill’s appearance during its time in Krommenie. The momentous occasion arrived in April 1965 when the grandeur of the 125-foot windmill was formally unveiled and dedicated on Windmill Island—a 36-acre haven that emerged from a once-dense swamp at the eastern edge of Lake Macatawa.
Besides the windmill, Windmill Island Gardens boasts 36 acres of exhibits, gardens, and natural areas, including a working street organ that was a gift from the city of Amsterdam after World War II, an antique carousel with handpainted animals, replica structures, and a historic Little Netherlands display showing life in the countries in the 1840s.