Arts and Entertainment

Oak Harbor goes Dutch

Rob Hause of Seattle will be this year’s Holland Happening parade grand marshal.  - Photo courtesy of Jill Johnson
Rob Hause of Seattle will be this year’s Holland Happening parade grand marshal.
— image credit: Photo courtesy of Jill Johnson

The sound of klompen will soon fill the city of Oak Harbor as Holland Happening ramps into full gear. The 41st annual event starts Thursday afternoon with the Davis Amusement Carnival on Bayshore Drive and continues through Sunday evening.

Friday night’s festivities will fall a bit short, however. For the first time in almost 40 years there will be no Dutch dinner at the First Reformed Church.

“The Dutch dinner just ran out of steam,” said Jill Johnson, executive director of the Oak Harbor Chamber of Commerce. “The woman who has organized the dinner for the past several years said she was unable to continue this year and no one stepped up to replace her.”

Organization and support of the weekend-long event could face a similar fate in the future, she said.

“We are having the same problems with Holland Happening. No volunteers may equal no Holland Happening. The community needs to start pitching in, or these types of traditions will go away,” she said.

But such worries won’t dampen this year’s events, which, minus the traditional Dutch dinner at the First Reformed Church, will go on as planned in all its historic Holland Happening splendor.

Saturday’s jubilee belongs to early birds who will brave the Oak Harbor Christian School’s seventh annual Eagle Run, with an 8 a.m. dash and 8:15 a.m. 5K run.

Hungry runners, friends, family and anyone else in the community is invited to fill up before the parade at North Whidbey Fire and Rescue’s annual Holland Happening all-you-can-eat pancake feed from 7 to 11 a.m. Saturday, April 24 at the Heller Road Fire Station.

Mid-morning, festival-goers can catch the tail-end of the pancake feast, sip a cup of coffee, wipe the last bit of sleep from their eyes and walk the street fair before the 11 a.m. parade begins.

The Navy will close the Maui gate to the Seaplane Base to facilitate the parade, so use the Torpedo Road gate from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

This year’s grand marshal may not be local, but he’s got Holland Happening down to a Dutch chocolate “T.” Rob Hause of Seattle is literally a fixture at the Dutch festival. After his first Holland Happening experience 24 years ago, the event is an annual tradition for Hause.

“I’ve been going since 1986 without missing even one year,” Hause said.

Through the decades he’s made many new friends, including Johnson and Elmer and Marleen Veldheer from Michigan, who delight the masses each year with their klompen carving demonstration.

Hause and the Veldheers typically catch up at the Friday night Dutch dinner, although he’s not sure what he’ll do in place of the annual banquet.

“I’m kind of sad,” Hause said of the dinner’s demise. He’d been looking forward to the conversation and copious amounts of Dutch fare, such as split pea and ham soup, meatballs, mashed potatoes, root vegetables, hearty rye bread, cheeses, apple sauce and pie.

A venerable Holland Happening historian, if asked, Hause can quickly recall changes to the Dutch event through the years.

For example, the event initially began in 1969 as a modest endeavor with a flower show and small parade; the street fair occurred at the Oak Harbor High School from 1975 through 2000 until it was moved to Pioneer Way; and a fireworks show wowed spectators in 2001.

Following the 2010 parade Saturday morning, the Lions Club will host its annual salmon barbeque from noon to 6 p.m. next to the Chamber of Commerce at 32630 Highway 20.

Other highlights on Saturday include a wooden shoe carving demonstration from noon to 4 p.m. at the street fair and dingy races at 2 p.m. in Oak Harbor Bay. Gather around the Oak Harbor Marina dinghy docks at 1 p.m. to join the fun.

In addition to the carnival, street fair and entertainment stage, Sunday’s activities includes a Klompen Canal Race at 2 p.m.

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