Pella, Iowa Celebrates

015.jpgIt’s great to have pride in our heritage and in America, there is such diversity of origins that a rich tradition in many communities is a celebration of their founders and the culture they brought with them.

Dutch settlers in America are a part of this wonderful American tradition. We all pretty much know from high school history that the Dutch had one of the world’s most valuable pieces of real estate–now known as Manhattan–but lost it to the English. Some may have heard about the Dutch tradition in Holland, Michigan where many settlers from the Netherlands went to live. But how many of you knew that Pella, Iowa has a legacy of Dutch settlers that is celebrated every year at this time, when the tulips bloom?

The accompanying picture is from the tulip festival in Pella, Iowa and shows in the background the Tulip Toren, or Tulip Gate. Mary Vermeer Andringa, a native of Pella and the chief executive officer at Vermeer Corporation there, told me about this festival a few days ago. Her family has Dutch roots as you might have guessed with names like Vermeer and Andringa. Mary’s family and friends were in town to see the parades, enjoy the children’s programs, concerts, auto shows and of course the tulips. I understand there are 30,000 tulips in Pella. Vermeer Corporation — manufacturer of a wide range of industrial equipment — alone plants 12,000 tulips on their own corporate campus. The tulip is one of the most beautiful flowers of the year, not least because it blooms early when we need some cheer after the long, grey winter. Some day I’ve got to make it to Pella at this time of the year to take in this floral spendor.

For more images of Pella, Iowa’s tulip festival just click here and get ready for their 2009 festival from May 7-9. And kudos to the Vermeer Corporation for helping to make their town special with support for this festival and their own magnificent plantings.

By the way, if you are a fan of tulips …

By the way, if you are a fan of tulips, you may be interested that their origin was in Asia. According to Wikipedia

The tulip, or “Lale” as it is called in Turkey, is a flower indigenous to Iran, Afghanistan, Turkey and other parts of Central Asia. A Dutch ambassador in Turkey in the 16th century, who was also a great floral enthusiast, Ogier Ghiselin de Busbecq, got their very names because of their Persian origins. Tulips were brought to Europe in the 16th century.

The tulip then was an early benefit of world trade, bringing something to Europe that was not indigenous. Tulips became so valuable for a few years after 1634 that they even came to be used as currency. And the prices of some tulips were bid up so high that there was a “tulip frenzy” that economists will tell you was one of the first speculative bubbles of the modern era.

So next time you gaze on this special flower, appreciate its intersting migration from Asia to Europe and then to America and its role in the Dutch economy long ago. And go to Pella, Iowa or Holland, Michigan or wherever tulips grow this spring and take in their beauty. (By the way, the poinsettia has a similar intersting international history but we’ll wait to write about that in December).

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