Much of the Dutch heritage of Oak Harbor shone through Saturday despite dark skies and whipping wind during the parade of the 48th annual Holland Happening.
Dressed in traditional Dutch clothes and wearing wooden shoes, street sweepers started the parade, a tradition going back to their Holland homeland. Known for being meticulously neat (although some other Scandinavian types might claim the same fame) street sweepers always swept the route and a Town Crier announced the festival.
People packed the parade route, many huddled together for warmth or wrapped themselves in blankets. Candy shot through the air to kids lining Bayshore Drive. They scrambled to catch the treats tossed from groups in the parade and then anxiously awaited for the next sugar missile.
Tulips popped up everywhere. Colorful mounds of the famous Dutch flowers filled carts, buckets, wagons, oversized clogs and even “cooked” in a kettle over a campfire on a float.
Jacob Hutson pushed a huge wooden cart loaded with tulips as his brother, Alex Hutson, Sandy Mulkey and Markus Richards helped pass them out. Long before the end of the route, the cart grew lighter as the colorful flowers were dispersed one by one.
More than 100 entries comprised the parade that featured school marching bands, local farmers, and many organizations and clubs, ranging from judo to low-riding recumbent bicyclists. Ron Wallin, president of the Whidbey Island Public Hospital District Board of Commissioners, served as Grand Marshall.
Lasting about an hour, it ended just as a light rain fell that lasted less than 10 minutes. People then packed Pioneer Way, checking out the dozens of vendors. Others headed to the carnival.
“Last year, it was so hot, I was trying to keep my chocolate from melting,” remarked vendor Janine Verhulst, owner of the Coupeville store, A Touch of Dutch. “But this year, I can’t keep warm.”
Holland Happening is a four-day celebration of Oak Harbor’s Dutch roots that spread back to the late 1800s when many families from Holland emigrated to Whidbey and the Skagit Valley. Jan Ellis, considered the matriarch of Holland Happening, missed the event for perhaps the first time in 48 years. Friends said she’s traveling in China.
Sponsored by the Oak Harbor Chamber of Commerce, it also featured a traditional Dutch dinner Friday night. Sunday at 2 p.m., the popular Klompen Canal Races are scheduled. Decorated miniature wooden shoes race down a makeshift “canal,” which is slightly smaller than the famous canals of Holland.