Holland Happening romps through Oak Harbor

Even though Sheila Dennison moved away from Whidbey Island last year, she made sure she made it back to participate in Oak Harbor’s annual celebration of its Dutch heritage.

“We had to come back here for this year’s Holland Happening,” said Dennison, who now lives in Silverdale. “It’s one of our favorite weekends.”

She was one of the thousands of people who visited downtown Oak Harbor Saturday morning to witness the annual Holland Happening parade. She was with her son, Calvin, who had an inflatable snake wrapped around his head and held an inflatable shark.

The parade, which was led by the town crier and street sweepers celebrating their Dutch heritage, is always a popular highlight of Holland Happening, which provides a celebration of Oak Harbor, all of its people and the organizations that serves the island.

Bryan Boersma, wearing wooden klompen, finished up his fourth year as the town crier, ringing the bell at the front of the parade line. He took over years ago from Ted VanZanden after he retired. He said organizers approached him at church and he couldn’t say no.

“I said I’d love to,” Boersma said.

VanZanden still participates in the parade. He was riding a float dressed as Sinter Klaus.

Firefighters tossing candy to eager children, school marching bands, church groups and sports teams were just some of the entries into this year’s parade.

For Aiden Fry, the Saturday morning parade marked the first time he could participate in such a spectacle. He was watching with his bigger sisters, Bailey and Kazmynn, picking up candy thrown at the throngs of people lining either side of Bayshore Drive.

“They love it. It’s so much fun,” Fry’s grandmother, Connie Coleman, said of her grandchildren.

The parade provided a time to remember military personnel who died in service to the United States. Near the head of the parade, military personnel, representing several branches, marched carrying banners with photographs of Washington military personnel who have passed away.

Saturday’s parade isn’t the only event marking 2009 Holland Happening. This year’s festival started Thursday night with the carnival rides followed by the traditional Dutch Dinner at First Reformed Church.

Elmer Veldheer made his annual trip from Holland, Mich. and impressed the crowd by making klompen, the hand-carved wooden dutch-style shoe.

He makes each klompen out of Poplar, using tools that are more than 100 years old and have been handed down in the family. Of course people could also purchase a pair of shoes at the street fair.

In addition to the parade, there was the street fair complete with live entertainment and a plethora of fair food. Sunday’s events were highlighted with the annual Klompen Race, where children paint pint-sized, wooden shoes and race them down a waterway that has been placed on Pioneer Way.

The 2009 Holland Happening provide a weekend of fun that the family could enjoy.

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