(ORANGE CITY, IA) - Despite the rain and lack of flowers this year, the 73rd annual Tulip Festival kicked off in Orange City Thursday. Part of the fanfare is the festival's twice-daily parades and getting ready for them is a lot of work.
There are about 48 floats and groups in the Tulip Festival this weekend, but one boat bears the most history.
Back in 1937, a group from Orange City created the Van Amsterdam otherwise known as the "Schutter Boat." They traveled around the area peaking people's interest. "They had a piano organ on it and they would sing Dutch songs promoting people to come to Orange City during Tulip Festival," said Tulip Festival Float Chairman Dale Hiemstra. This isn't the first time the "Schutter Boat" has made an appearance in the Tulip Festival, but this is a special year. "Every year we re-do some floats, but sometimes it's just a little paint, sometimes it's just a little maintenance, but this is the first one we've done in quite a while that we really went ahead totally stripped it down, totally built it back and totally re-designed it and to go ahead and make it back like the original one," said Hiemstra. Five Orange City handy men spent the last month restoring the boat giving it the 1937 look. "And just to give you an idea, the one gentleman made the letters Van Amsterdam and painted them himself. These are not bought letters," said Hiemstra. Nothing beats an easy on and off the float design. "Then they built steps, these gentleman did and make it very easy to walk up in and out for the girls in their long dresses for the Dutch Dozen," said Hiemstra. Meanwhile, we checked on the tulips - the stars of the festival, especially with the strange spring Siouxland is experiencing. "Last year we were fighting it just the opposite. It was way early and at Tulip Festival we had nothing to show. So we're happy this year that we have some color. It's been a tough winter, but we have something to show anyway," said Brett Mulder, co-owner of Tulip Town Bulb Co. But the tulips at the big community garden haven't quite bloomed yet. They are the late varieties. "At Tulip Festival we have generally 60 to 80 percent of the varieties that are in bloom and this year so far we're somewhere 10 to 15 percent so far blooming," said Hiemstra on Thursday afternoon. Tulips need the rain, but as Mulder says preferably overnight please. "We don't like a lot of wind and a lot of heat either, but we should be able to manage this pretty well," said Hiemstra. We joked with him that he sounded pretty picky. He responded laughing with, "Yeah I know! Just like a farmer! Can't have anything right."
Mulder says the tulips should be bloomed about 50 percent by Friday or Saturday.