New coordinator is primed for Holland Happening

Vicki Graham, events coordinator with the Oak Harbor Chamber of Commerce, has been busy for two months preparing for the 48th Holland Happening, which gets underway this week. Photo by Ron Newberry/Whidbey News-Times

When Vicki Graham started as the new events coordinator at the Oak Harbor Chamber of Commerce last month, she knew she had less than 60 days to organize one of the city’s biggest events.

Starting off so soon with Holland Happening, Oak Harbor’s celebration of its Dutch heritage, was a rather tall order.

But it’s actually one of several events she’s juggling while managing to keep a smile on her face.

“I am having a ball,” she said. “I’m planning parties for a living. Who wouldn’t want to do that?”

The 48th Holland Happening gets underway Thursday with the start of the carnival. But to traditionalists, the formal beginning isn’t until Friday night when the Authentic Dutch Dinner is served at 5:30 p.m. at the First Reformed Church in Oak Harbor.

That leads to a full slate of weekend festivities, highlighted by Saturday’s 11 a.m. grand parade.

The Maui Avenue gate to the Seaplane Base at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island will be closed from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday to allow for staging of the parade lineup. Visitors to the Seaplane Base may use the Torpedo Road gate during that time.

The parade’s grand marshal is Ron Wallin. There will be 106 tulip-toting parade entries marching along Bayshore Drive and a segment of Pioneer Way.

The heart of Pioneer Way in historic downtown will be blocked off for a street fair on Saturday and Sunday.

The fair starts at 10 a.m. each day and will feature 95 vendors.

Festivities will include an entertainment stage for live music both days, a Walk of Honor Car Show on Saturday and Klompen Canal Races on Sunday.

“This year, we’re going to have street dances,” Graham said, referring to bands playing upbeat music starting in the late afternoon. “If everybody wants to be dancing in the street, we’re going to turn it into a party.”

Aside from doing her homework on the event, Graham also did some legwork.

She visited Lynden, considered Washington’s premier Dutch town, and picked up a number of props the Whatcom County town has used during its own Holland Days festival before discontinuing it. The props are on loan.

“They were very nice,” Graham said.

Holland Happening caters to families and children of all ages.

There will be two bounce houses and water ball, face painting and chalk painting.

One-day carnival passes may be purchased for $25 at the Chamber of Commerce office through Wednesday, then rise to $30 at the carnival on Thursday.

Dutch dinner tickets, which are $15, also may be purchased at the Chamber office.

n The Oak Harbor Chamber of Commerce is located at 32630 State Highway 20. The telephone number is 360-675-3755.

(This story was originally published Tuesday, April 15, 2017)