I grew up in far northwest Iowa and when someone asked if you were going to the Tulip Festival, they were not wondering about the the one in Pella. They were asking about the one in Orange City. While the Orange City Tulip Festival (which, incidentally, starts today and runs through Saturday) was not a huge part of my childhood, I did volunteer while in high school as a puppeteer for many years during the daily festivities.
Pella, like their Sioux County Dutch heritage counterparts (Orange City, Sioux Center, etc), takes incredible pride in their community and traditions. As the old joke (at least in Northwest Iowa) goes, "If you ain't Dutch, you ain't much."
At just over 10,000 residents, it is easily one of the cleanest cities not only in Iowa - but probably within the entire United States. I would also imagine that the per-capita income of the community has to be among the highest in Iowa too. Obviously, there is a lot of tourism but they also have a lot of great employers of all sizes, including Central College.
Pella is about 5 hours from where I grew up and so it was not necessarily a common destination - until I moved to central Iowa after graduating from Iowa State. I get to Pella or drive through on nearby 4-lane Highway 163 a few times a year. However, I had never been to the Tulip Time festival - held every year in early May - until this year. This year was the year I finally made it to Pella Tulip Festival.
A friend and I attended on the Friday evening for a few hours. The weather was perfect and after a long and brutal winter, it was clear that many were eager to enjoy the nice spring-like weather.
Of course, there are tulips everywhere (of many colors) and they were generally nicely in bloom.
My friend and I gave several items a try. Ever since being introduced to poffertjes in Orange City many years ago, I definitely had a craving for it. Poffertjes are like tiny pancakes with some syrup and powdered sugar. Sometimes people add other toppings, like fruit.
I was tempted to take home this poffertjes maker as well as the box of batter, but decided my waistline should only have poffertjes at festivals.
My friend enjoyed some of the bologna on a stick. I tried a little. It was quite delicious.
However, we did not try the Dutch taco, which included similar bologna.
We popped into one of the meat markets before it closed for the night. We did not buy anything but there were plenty of other carnivores doing some shopping.
The line, per usual, to get into Jaarsma Bakery was outrageous. I've been before but there is almost always a line. I certainly was not going to attempt that.
There were a couple of different areas where local groups - from churches to schools to civic organizations - could sell food and beverage as a fundraiser for their various projects and efforts. The area was packed and they also put in some picnic tables in the middle for those who wanted to sit and eat - or just sit and do some people watching.
I also tried some Kroketten - which was kind of a mix of meat rolled in crumbs and fried. It came with fries and a pickle as well as some mayo-like sauce that I mostly avoided. This was my first time trying this. It was mushier than I expected but tasty.
I did not try the Dutch Letter Shake at Smokey Row, but it sure sounded delicious. Smoke Row is one of my favorite coffee shops in Des Moines.
The Craft Beer
I did not expect that there would be any alcohol sold at the Tulip Festival. That certainly would NOT be the case in Orange City. In fact, the joke is that it's hard to even find alcohol - any time of the year - in Sioux County. Nonetheless, the Iowa Craft Beer Tent had one of the trailers parked behind a bar and there was a separate entrance for 21+ to enter and enjoy some $6 beverages.
I very much appreciate that nearly everything in Pella - both old and new - has that Dutch themed construction. Yes, even the Walmart and the Casey's General Store has some Dutch flare to it. I plan to come back to Pella sometime in the near future to enjoy some of the historic district and elsewhere when it isn't so busy with festival activity.
I loved the "burglar alarm" on this old bank building.