YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

A Street-Scrubbing Festival in Iowa : For Young and Old, It's a Real Dutch Treat at Tulip Time

Charles Hillinger's America

May 24, 1987|CHARLES HILLINGER | Times Staff Writer

PELLA, Iowa — We're Dutch kids from Pella, U . S . A .

We're proud to be with you today

We're from Pella, Ioway . . . --Third graders singing at Pella Tulip Time Festival

More than 500 men, women and children dressed in Dutch outfits scrubbed downtown streets of this small South-Central Iowa town as hundreds of others clapped, shouted and cheered them on.

Men and boys carried buckets of water, many of the buckets suspended from wooden yokes carried on their shoulders.

The girls and women did the scrubbing with brushes and brooms.

Scrubbers were as young as 2 and 3, as old as Janet Van Gorp, 85, who has scrubbed streets during Pella's Tulip Time Festival ever since it began 52 years ago.

Cleanliness Stressed

"This is an old Dutch tradition in The Netherlands. We do it twice a day for three days each May during Tulip Time for the public to see. Many of us in Pella, like myself, scrub the sidewalk and street in front of our homes all year long at least once a week," Van Gorp said. "Cleanliness, you see, is part of being Dutch. We believe you should keep your house and your town spotless. Why do you think they call that cleaning solvent Dutch Cleanser?"

Pella, population 8,500, was founded Aug. 26, 1847, by 800 Hollanders led by Dominie Hendrik Pieter Scholte. They were members of the Reform Church and left The Netherlands because of religious persecution.

They crossed the Atlantic in four sailing vessels and journeyed overland in wagons, ox carts and on horseback to buy 18,000 acres of government land in Iowa for $1.25 an acre.

They called their new home Pella, after the city in Jordan that served as a place of refuge for Christians in the 1st Century.

Dutch is still spoken in Pella, where more than half the residents are descendants of the Dutch pioneers who came here 140 years ago.

Storefronts are of Dutch architecture. In the center of town is a klokkenspel (clock tower) with eight large figures that dance to carillon music on the hour.

The town bank is a large Dutch windmill. In the town square and on front lawns throughout Pella are Dutch windmills, some small, some tall.

The town is drenched in dazzling rainbow-colored tulip fields. Tulip gardens are everywhere. Tulips line the sidewalks in front of nearly every home. Tulips adorn classroom windows and sprout from planters in shop windows.

Dutch language and Dutch cultural classes are taught at Central College, the Reform Church affiliated school founded in 1853.

Appropriate Clothing

During the festival, most of the residents wear wooden shoes and Dutch clothing representative of the provinces in The Netherlands where their ancestors came from.

"These hand-embroidered lace hats women and girls wear are called muts ," explained Bonnie Deur, 33, who scrubbed Pella's streets with her daughter, Allison, 5. The Dutch dresses are called volendams .

Men and boys wear navy blue or black Dutchman's breeches, baggy pants laced up the back and with large silver buttons in front. The men wear double-breasted plaid shirts and black Dutch caps.

Tulip Time Queen Patti De Nooy, 18, fourth-generation Dutch and senior at Pella Christian High School, and her four attendants, Jill Van Zee, Paula Jo Malin, Leslie Quande and Julie Bogaards, wear colorful hand-embroidered red-and-white lace dresses with blue pleated aprons and lace hats.

This year, as always among the thousands of visitors to the early May festival, there were several that came from The Netherlands especially for Tulip Time.

Pella may not be known to most Americans but to Hollanders it is one of the best-known places in the United States. Pella aided residents of The Netherlands with food, clothing and supplies during World War II. The people of The Netherlands never forgot the little Iowa town.

Tulip Time visitors came here for the two parades each day, for the Dutch music and dancing, and for the sumptuous Dutch food. Bakeries in town had a hard time keeping up with the demand for Dutch letters , a flaky pastry in the shape of a large S and filled with marzipan. Poffertje , half-dollar-size pancakes fried in butter and covered with powdered sugar, are equally as popular.

Scrubbers, Kindergarteners

Afternoon and evening parades featured bands, floats, the street scrubbers, 300 dancers in Dutch outfits and wooden shoes, a block-long procession of Pella mothers pushing their babies in buggies and wagons, and a parade of every kindergartener through fifth-grader in town.

Pella echoed with the clip-clop of klompers (wooden shoes) from the dancers performing on the streets, from people walking along the sidewalks.

Before each parade Clarence Van Niewaal, 80, serenaded the crowd on the Goliath , a century-old Dutch organ brought over from the old country. Van Niewaal played old favorites like "Tulips in Amsterdam" and "Give Me Pretty Holland."

The "Star Spangled Banner" was played, then the national anthem of The Netherlands. After that, Burgemeester Orville Dunkin, Pella's superintendent of schools, dressed in velvet breeches, velvet shirt and cape and carrying a scepter, commanded: "Bring on the scrubbers. Bring on the brooms and brushes. Bring on the buckets."

Los Angeles Times Articles