The first Holland Tulip Time was held on May 18, 1929.
Two years earlier, local high school biology teacher Lida Rogers had pitched to the Women’s Literary Club the idea of planting tulips in the city and dedicating one day every spring to the Dutch flower, according to Randy Vande Water, a local historian and former editor of the Holland Sentinel who wrote the book “Holland: The Tulip Town.”
In 1928, Mayor Earnest Brooks suggested the city buy 100,000 tulip bulbs from the Netherlands, which were planted in his backyard, Centennial Park and along some city streets. (Tulip Lane now runs more than 6 miles.)
After the successful 1929 start, the 1930 festival included an operetta by Holland High School students and a flower show at the local Masonic Temple, organized by area nurseries. The next year, the tradition of scrubbing the streets in period costumes began, and 1932 saw the debut of parades.
Starting in the late 1930s, Hollywood stars joined the fun; later years saw Bob Newhart and “The Lawrence Welk Show” performers, and earlier this month, Bill Cosby. President Gerald Ford, who previously represented Holland in Congress, was the first sitting president to go to Tulip Time; the next presidential election year, former Presidents George Bush and Ronald Reagan came.
Tulip Time wasn’t held in 1943-45, because of World War II.
Now Holland’s premier event draws thousands of people every year.
In 2018, Tulip Time was celebrated from May 5-13.
For the full article, see Zlati Meyer, “This week in Michigan history: The first Holland Tulip Time”, Detroit Free Press, May 18, 2014.