In our opinion: Holland Happening may have changed, but name should not

Oak Harbor Chamber of Commerce leaders learned that a tulip called by another name may not smell as sweet.

News that the chamber is changing the name of the 51-year-old Holland Happening event to “Spring Festival” upset many in the community and spawned two petition efforts to quash the change.

Chamber leaders should listen to the community on this one. However, it’s also incumbent on those bemoaning the name change to step up and help bring some of “Holland” back to Holland Happening.

Perhaps this controversy will spark more public interest and engagement in the event.

“Spring Festival” is pretty mundane and reeks of becoming the big-box store of festivals. Nonspecific, something for everyone, nothing new or challenging. The name has no special meaning to Oak Harbor and recalls no traditions.

The problem, though, is that Holland Happening has evolved into something close to a generic spring festival. Ten years ago, the popular Dutch dinner held by the First Reformed Church was canceled because the longtime organizer could no longer do it, and no one took her place. Oak Harbor children are growing up without the taste of oliebollen, erwtensoep and hutspot.

Once upon a time, so many leading citizens in Oak Harbor had ancestry traced back to the Netherlands that they were referred to as the “Dutch Mafia.” They helped make Holland Happening a true celebration of Dutch heritage in a fun and inviting way.

Most of those people are no longer around. Festival organizers struggled to maintain the Dutch traditions. Some people who traveled to Oak Harbor for a Dutch-themed celebration were disappointed to find a scatter-shot festival with the usual carnival rides, pizza and ice cream, arts and crafts.

Thankfully, the Klompen shoe races, parade marchers dressed in old-fashioned Dutch garb and tulips galore continue as part of the festival.

Perhaps the change was inevitable. The demographics aren’t the same. Oak Harbor isn’t a city that dwells on its heritage, but values progress and utilitarianism. Many historic structures have been razed, including the iconic windmill in Windjammer Park. There are only vague plans to rebuild it “someday.”

Holland Happening is a festival that brings together the community, and a disagreement over a name shouldn’t change that.

For now, keep the old name and work to enliven the Dutch aspects of the festival, all while embracing the quirkiness of a unique Oak Harbor event.

More in Opinion

In Our Opinion: Local education is a key to COVID-19 vaccination success

The COVID-19 vaccine does not contain tiny microchips, it won’t infect you… Continue reading

Sound Off: Shopping small this holiday season needed more than ever

It’s no secret that the coronavirus pandemic has made a huge impact… Continue reading

Sound Off | Negotiations with Navy over connecting to sewer have ceased

As Mayor of Oak Harbor, I appreciate the partnership the city has… Continue reading

Wise Drive: Phone usage while driving increases crash risk

Q:What’s the deal with people who wear a mask when they’re driving… Continue reading

In Our Opinion: Council doesn’t need AI software to tell them people are ticked

People are mad at the Oak Harbor City Council for wasting money… Continue reading

In Our Opinion: In an imperfect world, sex ed arms children with knowledge

The campaign against a state Senate Bill that would require comprehensive sexual… Continue reading

In Our Opinion: Elect Larsen to another term in the U.S. House of Representatives

Taking on a popular, 20-year veteran congressman isn’t an easy task, but… Continue reading

Molten Rock: A day without connectivity on Whidbey

I arose at my usual 6:30 a.m. on Monday Oct. 12, pulled… Continue reading

In Our Opinion: Cliff would continue tradition of thoughtful judiciary

It speaks volumes that the retiring Island County superior court judges, the… Continue reading

In Our Opinion: Johnson, Bacon have right chops for county government

Our endorsements for Island County commissioner races.

In Our Opinion: Price Johnson, Gilday, Paul are right for the 10th District

Political eyes across the state are focused on the 10th Legislative District,… Continue reading