Tulips bloom for an Iowa rite of passage that commemorates the change in seasons — Tulip Time Festival in Pella is scheduled for May 5-7.
The history of Pella’s Tulip Time
Pella’s Tulip Time festival dates back to 1935 as an impromptu gathering of those with Dutch ancestry. People came together to celebrate their heritage through wearing traditional Dutch costumes, eating Dutch food and participating in Dutch activities such as street scrubbing and coffee time.
Tulip Time celebrates traditional Dutch heritage and tulips, the national flower of the Netherlands. Tulip Time typically occurs when tulips are in full bloom and gives a blissful view as waves of colorful tulips fill your eyes.
Tulip Time 2022 Dates
Tulip Time this year will take place May 5-7 with events and parades throughout the three days.
Where to find tulips in Pella
The city is laden with hundreds of thousands of tulips, but several locations host larger displays and fields of tulips.
The aptly named Tulip Avenue in Central Park and Sunken Garden Park each have thousands of tulips planted to flood the eye with colorful, blooming tulips.
Scholte House Museum & Gardens has more than 35,000 tulips on display along with benches, sculptures and a gazebo for people to rest at and admire the garden once cared for by Maria Scholte, the wife of Pella’s founder Domine Hendrik P. Scholte. Find it at the corner of Main and Broadway streets.
Fair Haven Memorial Garden at the corner of East Third and Union streets hosts more than 13,000 tulips for visitors to enjoy. The garden was started as a place to honor those who served in World War II. The Netherlands donated tulips to the town of Pella as gratitude for war relief aid.
Central College’s campus at 812 University St. sports more than 15,000 tulips. The main tulip beds are by the Graham Conference Center. Additional beds can be found on the north and south sides of Central Hall, Jordan Plaza, Peace Mall and Weller Flag Garden.
Where can I get tickets?
Tulip Time is free for all, but some events and attractions required paid tickets. Museums, attractions, tours and select shows have tickets that range from $5-$20 based on day and event. Saturdays are the most expensive day for tickets.
Visitors can order tickets for grandstand seats during the 1 p.m. shows Thursday though Saturday that include Dutch dancing and singing, the Parade of Provinces (a historic Dutch costume style show), presentation of the Tulip Queen and her Court, the famous street scrubbing, and more. Bleacher seats are $10 per person, and park seating is $5 per person.
Tickets are also available for tours of the Scholte House Museum & Gardens and Vermeer Windmill and Historical Village, including the boyhood home of Wyatt Earp.
Tickets can be purchased on pre-sale until noon on May 4 at pellahistorical.com. After May 4, tickets can only be purchased at the event at the corner of Franklin and Main streets.
Parking and how to get around
With the streets packed with food, amusement and vendors, downtown parking options are limited.
Pella has paid parking spots on the west side of town at Delta Inc’s Building A, 1417 Washington St., on Friday and Saturday and on the southeast side of town at Pella Christian High School, 300 Eagle Lane, on Saturday. Spots are $8 per vehicle and include a shuttle ride to all the action.
A limited number of handicap spots are available on a first-come-first-serve basis at the Pella Public Library, 603 Main St.
Most attractions are within easy walking distance, but golf cart shuttles are available along specified routes from Scholte Church to the Dutch Market. Single rides can be purchased for $2 or $5 all-day passes.
Tulip Time events and schedule
Every day starts at 9 a.m. and lasts until 8:30 p.m. with a parade to close out the day. Events are ongoing throughout all hours and days during Tulip Time. A full breakdown of the schedule and events can be picked at the Information Windmill when you visit.
Two parades will occur each day throughout the festival — the first at 2:30 p.m. and the Volks lighted parade at 8:30 p.m. Both will feature marching bands, floats and people wearing Dutch costumes.
Feesthouden shows begin at 7 p.m. during the festival with local praise band Alma on Thursday, Central College’s jazz and pop combo on Friday and Tyler Richton and the High Bank Boys on Saturday.
Parades run down Main Street, around Central Park and past Franklin Street to pass through the Pella Historic District.
Tulip Toren entertainment showcases Dutch costume shows and presents the Tulip Queen and her Court. Tulip Toren will occur on the Tulip Toren Stage in Central Park.
Klokkenspel is a performance that takes place every 30 minutes during Tulip Time that features a 147-bell carillon with eight mechanical figures portraying prominent figures and moments in Pella’s history.
In addition, a slew of other shows keeps the day filled with entertainment to highlight the rich Dutch history Pella holds dear. A full schedule is available at pellahistorical.org.
Get a bite of some traditional Dutch food
The streets will be lined with food vendors and restaurants to give patrons a taste of traditional Dutch food.
Pick up a stroopwafel, Dutch letters, brats and funnel cakes or make a reservation at a few special places for Tulip Time such as Maria’s Tea Room in Scholte House Museum or the Dutch Dinner Show at the Graham Conference Center.
Maria’s Tea Room, which offers coffee and traditional Dutch pastries, requires an advance $15 reservation and will operate Thursday through Saturday at 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. Call 641-628-1541 to reserve.
Dutch Dinner Show features performances and Dutch dishes prepared by Central College Catering at the Graham Conference Center at Central College, 812 University St., Wednesday through Friday at 5 p.m. and requires a $25 per person advanced reservation made at 641-628-7679. Performances include the Dutchesses on Wednesday, the Tulip Queen and Court on Thursday, and the Dutch Family Singers on Friday. Cash bar available.
Another option that does not require a reservation is the Fly-In Breakfast from 7 to 10 a.m. Saturday. Enjoy an aircraft display while eating breakfast at Pella Municipal Airport, 501 W. 15th St. The cost is $8 and $6 for adults and children respectively.
Dutch Craft Market
West Market Park features more than 100 booths with shopping options. The market at 1009 Liberty St. is open from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Lodging in Pella near Tulip Time
Plan on staying in town for a bit to soak in all that Tulip Time has to offer? Visit Pella showcases 18 hotels and Airbnbs around town.
Volunteering at Tulip Time
Pella welcomes volunteers to join in on making Tulip Time as fluid as possible. Volunteering opportunities range from showcasing your own talent as an artisan or Dutch Dancer to normal festival opportunities like ticket takers.
If you want to get down with some Dutch traditions, street scrubbers are welcome to help prepare the area for the parades.
Omar Waheed is a spring 2022 reporting intern for the Des Moines Register