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

Editorial: Answers to protests not simple, but there is hope

Editorial writers at newspapers across the nation are grasping for words when… Continue reading

Editorial: COVID responses should continue as we reopen

Island County residents have taken the response to the pandemic seriously. That… Continue reading

Memorial Day: Remember, honor those who sacrificed

I am humbled anytime I have the opportunity to pay homage to… Continue reading

Rockin’ a Hard Place: Overcoming an eerie feeling in an empty tourist town

Eerie is an onomatopoeia – a word that sounds like what it… Continue reading

Editorial: Governor, allow the show to go on at Blue Fox Drive-in

Somehow people are choosing sides when it comes to COVID-19. And it’s… Continue reading

Sound Off: Coronavirus, work must somehow coexist

By now it is apparent that, barring a miracle, a cure for… Continue reading

Editorial: If you’ve considered running for office, next week is time to act

Quite a few people have already announced their intentions to run this… Continue reading

Technological problems don’t excuse meetings violation

The Coupeville School Board inadvertently violated the state Open Public Meetings Act… Continue reading

Sound Off: Governor holds extraordinary powers in an emergency

As a community, state and nation, we are suffering from the effects… Continue reading

Soundoff: Grateful for courage, stamina of essential workers in community

By Patricia Duff These are strange and difficult times for all of… Continue reading

Publisher: A message to newspaper’s readers

To our readers, In a few short weeks our world has changed.… Continue reading

Letter: Not too early to begin thinking about recovery

Editor, From my vantage here in Everett, the public health emergency of… Continue reading