Shining Dutch weekend

Holland Happening 2008

After weeks of unpredictable — and rather unseasonable — spring weather, a sunny spectacle swept into town as Oak Harbor’s Dutch descendents took the spotlight for this year’s Holland Happening Festival. It began Thursday and capped off Sunday.

“The weather was amazing, the crowds were fantastic and the parade was full of great groups and lots of bands,” said Jill Johnson, executive director for the Greater Oak Harbor Chamber of Commerce.

And the imperial forces marching in the parade to promote a Saturday fundraiser for the local Red Cross chapter weren’t the only ones to have the force with them.

“We had a strong Dutch presence in this year’s parade with nearly 15 community members dressed in authentic Dutch attire sweeping the streets and passing out tulips,” Johnson said. “The chamber was thrilled with this year’s Holland happening, it really couldn’t have gone better.”

Heather Johnson, the chamber’s organizer of the event, lead this enormous undertaking.

“She worked unbelievably hard to ensure everything ran smoothly and it really showed,” Johnson said.

That work was evident as the throngs of spectators lined Bayshore Drive for the parade mid-morning Saturday.

Oak Harbor kids Alexander Thompson, 3, Frankie Thompson, 8, Delaney Allen, 6, and Dylan Allen, 3, enjoyed a pre-parade snack and a boost of sugar thanks to warm chocolate chip cookies.

While the kids looked enthusiastic, munching away, waiting for the parade about the start — their minds wandered elsewhere.

“It’s going to be a lot of fun,” Frankie Thompson said. “The rides that twist around are a lot of fun. I can’t wait.”

It was wall-to-wall foot traffic for anyone browsing the Street Fair along Pioneer Way Saturday.People perused booths selling everything from new windows to fine art. They stopped by and visited community organizations and informational booths advocating for animals, the fight against cancer, water conservation, and youth sports programs.

Down past the entertainment stage where Polynesian dancers swayed, oompah bands oom-pah, pahed, and other local entertainers claimed fame, food vendors whipped up sweet treats, savory smells, salty fries and other fresh tastes.

“What we saw was everyone pulling together and the impact of all the community effort was incredible,” Johnson said.

Sunday afternoon, dozens of colorful klompen bobbed and drifted down the babbling waters of the Klompen Canalway setup on Pioneer Way. It was an appropriate event for the closing day that seemed to go at a slightly more casual pace than the feverish day before.

“The highlight of the event was the number of people that turned out to help,” Johnson said.

The Navy sent teams of volunteers to help the chamber setup, keep the streets clean and tear down the event — all done in an impressive fashion.

“Oak Harbor will be proud to know that most of this year’s volunteers were our kids,” Johnson said.

Next year will mark the 40th anniversary for Holland Happening and another year for the Dutch (and the Dutch at heart) to shine.

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