An annual tradition steeped in Oak Harbor’s Dutch roots is returning to the city next weekend.
Holland Happening is taking place from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Saturday, April 29 and from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday, April 30.
Magi Aguilar, director of the Oak Harbor Chamber of Commerce, said she and her staff were inspired this year by the event’s long history.
“We took it back to where 20 years ago, this is what the town did,” she said. “They came together and they all participated for the entire weekend.”
The traditional parade starts at 11 a.m. Saturday on Pioneer Way with local police, fire and Navy vehicles. Over 80 businesses and groups are participating. The grand marshal of the parade this year was unanimously chosen to be Wayne Locke, who has supported many area nonprofits throughout the years, Aguilar said.
Locke said he was on the board of directors for Habitat for Humanity, the Chamber of Commerce, the Boys and Girls Club and Big Brothers Big Sisters. He helped run Pig Fest, a free meal of pulled pork every August, and helped serve a Thanksgiving dinner for about 3,000 people in Oak Harbor for several years.
Locke was also the community’s popular clown for many years and participated in all of the Oak Harbor parades. A Vietnam veteran, he was in the Navy and later assigned to the Marine Corps. Locke worked as a realtor for years.
He may be most well-known for lending his 15-foot-long box truck to whichever local organization needs it. It has been borrowed countless times over the years, he said.
Lock said he was surprised to be the named grand marshal of the parade and actually declined the offer at first before accepting.
“It feels wonderful,” he said, adding that he’s very excited to be in the parade, but he’s excited for the parade every year.
Along with the parade, Holland Happening will feature the famous Klompen Canal Race, which involves miniature wooden shoes floating down a canal. Aguilar said the demand for the wooden shoes have doubled this year and the chamber is already sold out. There is an all ages race at 1:30 p.m. on Saturday and 12:30 p.m. on Sunday.
“What really makes this event very unique is we build the canal from scratch every year,” Aguilar said.
The chamber has partnered with the Oak Harbor Main Street Association to schedule musicians who will perform at the Pop Up Plaza on Pioneer Way throughout the weekend. Oak Harbor Cafe and Lounge will be hosting a beer garden and there will be a street fair at 10 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday with over 80 vendors total selling arts and crafts and food.
Aguilar said the chamber has worked directly with Oak Harbor businesses to create more “diverse and authentic” experiences. For example, Tipsy Jellyfish is hosting a traditional wine and beer tasting, Varner Candle Company is doing a spring candle making and Sno-Isle Library is hosting a heritage family story time. There will be a Dutch-themed photo booth next to the chamber’s information booth.
“Even though we don’t have a lot of the traditional Dutch vendors, its makes me really excited that the community has come together to really keep the tradition going,” Aguilar said.