Destination Iowa: Pella
Courtesy of The Record
See all the photos shot for this feature by clicking here.
More than Just a Tulip Festival,
Pella Offers Year Round Sites to See
Located on State Highway 163, Pella is about 43 miles south-southeast of Des Moines. This picturesque community was founded in 1847 by Dominie (Dutch for Reverend) Scholte and the group of 800 immigrants who came to America in search of religious freedom.
Pella honors its Dutch heritage the first full weekend of every May with its annual Tulip Festival. Parades, flower shows, antique car displays, and more Dutch food than you can sample in a day are perennial parts of this three-day event.
This year Pella celebrated its 75th Tulip Festival by setting a world record. 2,604 dancers put on their Klompen (wooden shoes) and danced. Completely surrounding Pella’s Central Park in the downtown area, those involved filled the streets three lines deep and spilled out past the park on both Main and Franklin streets. The Guiness Book of World Records was on hand to authenticate the record setting 5-minute dance.
However, you are not limited to the first weekend in May for experiencing a touch of Dutch hospitality. The Dutch storefronts are visible year-round and decorated for the holidays in the winter. Many of the museums are open ten months out of the year. Pella is also home to North America’s largest working grain windmill.
The Scholte House Museum was the home of Dominie Scholte and his family. It is open for self-guided tours Monday–Saturday, 1-4 p.m., March through December. You can find this museum at 728 Washington Street just north of the square.
Just past downtown on Franklin Street is the Vermeer Windmill, Pella Welcome Center and Historical Dutch Village. This block-sized complex is the home to a whole series of interconnected museums. The Vermeer Mill is an actual working grain mill built in Holland and shipped to America piece-by-piece. Wyatt Earp’s boyhood home is also part of the complex. Many other daily aspects of a typical Dutch village, including a Klompen (wooden shoe) maker are on display as well. The village is open to the public 9 a.m.–5 p.m., Monday through Saturday, March to December, weather permitting.
A replica canal and working Klokkenspiel have been built over the alleyways of the south side of Franklin Street. Pella’s historic Opera House has been restored to its former grandeur. The canal, Klokkenspiel, and Opera House are operational year-round.
The Pella Window Corporation has its worldwide headquarters in Pella. The Pella Corp. has restored the old Pella railroad depot and has turned it into a museum for the company. Pella is also the home of Vermeer Manufacturing and Central College.
Make plans now to schedule May 5, 6, and 7 of 2011 for the 76th annual Tulip Festival. But you’ll want to make note of these events as well.
• Kermis July 10, 10 a.m.-noon. Kermis is the traditional Dutch summer celebration of food and games. Kermis would be the Dutch equivalent of Conrad’s own Black Dirt Days.
• The Fall Festival September and Fall Flower & Quilt Show Sept. 24-25.
• The Sinterklaas (Santa Claus) Festival is Nov. 27. There will be a parade at 10 a.m. A party at Monarchs and the Opera House will follow with admission and reservation.
•The Village Christmas Walk runs from Nov. 13-Dec. 31. The Dutch Historical village is decorated for Christmas in traditional Dutch fashion.