BY LESLIE IRISH EVANS
Whidbey Life Magazine Contributor
April 27, 2016
Dust off your klompen (wooden clogs) and don your hul (bonnet)! It’s time for Oak Harbor’s Holland Happening. This annual event, organized by the Oak Harbor Chamber of Commerce, features a carnival, parades, entertainment, a street fair and more. The theme for 2016’s Holland Happening is Gemeenschap, which is the Dutch word for “community.” The activities take place April 28 through May 1 at locations throughout the historic city’s downtown area.
This is the 47th year of the event, which celebrates the city’s Dutch heritage. In the 1890s, Oak Harbor saw an influx of Dutch immigrants who helped the town to grow and to thrive. The celebration itself is based on the Dutch holiday of Koningsdag or King’s Day, which celebrates the birthday of The Netherlands’ currently reigning monarch. The holiday was originally called Koninginnedag or Queen’s Day, until 2013 when The Netherlands welcomed Willem-Alexander, their first king since the national holiday began. Traditional activities include street markets, a parade and wearing orange, the national color of The Netherlands.
Over 8,000 people, both local and visitors, are expected to attend the Holland Happening. “It’s our biggest and most popular event of the season,” said Sooz Konopik, Events Coordinator for the Oak Harbor Chamber of Commerce. “Oak Harbor has a very strong Dutch community that’s very proud of its heritage.” Konopik stresses the inclusiveness of the event. “We celebrate not only Dutch heritage but all of the community members. It’s a really great get together.”
One of the event’s traditional highlights is the Grand Parade. “People dress in costumes,” said Konopik. “And we have street sweepers and town criers that start the parade. That’s a tradition in The Netherlands.” Parade entries are asked to display the Gemeenschap theme and a minimum of twelve tulips. This year, three trophies will be awarded for parade entries: Best in Theme, Best in Show and Best Kinderen’s (children’s). The parade is scheduled for 11 a.m. on Saturday, April 30 along Bayshore Drive.
Other featured events for the Holland Happening include a traditional Dutch dinner, children’s arts & crafts and Dutch-themed photoboards for fun photo opportunities. “We also have our own main entertainment stage with a diverse group of musicians,” said Konopik. “From Gypsy jazz to bluegrass and everything in between.” Attendees needing advice on what to do next can look for Oak Harbor Chamber members, who will be wearing Dutch-blue t-shirts and will be available as resources during the event.
Mark your calendar for Oak Harbor’s 47th annual Holland Happening, April 28 through May 1. For scheduled events and details visit the Oak Harbor Chamber of Commerce website at http://www.oakharborchamber.com.
Leslie Irish Evans is a podcast host, Huffington Post blogger, and the author of Peeling Mom Off the Ceiling: Reclaiming Your Life From Your Kids. She lives in Langley, WA. Learn more about her at http://www.leslieirishevans.com.
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