The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

April 24, 2014

Dutch Days: 40 years and counting

By Amy Kent Herald Staff Writer
The Clinton Herald

---- — FULTON, Ill. — A spring-time staple will return for its 40th consecutive year.

The community will come together once again May 2 to celebrate Fulton’s heritage at the 40th annual Dutch Days Festival.

Dutch Days committee chairwoman and City Alderwoman Barb Mask has seen the celebration in all its forms throughout the years, but even she is astonished to see it enter into its fourth decade of existence.

“It’s such a milestone especially when you look at other festivals in the area that have come and went,” she said. “We appreciate it’s a 40-year milestone, but we also appreciate that it continues to grow.”

She attributed that growth to a team of dedicated volunteers who strive to make the Dutch Days celebration a spectacle in the city. This year they are pulling out all the stops to make it the best one yet.

One way they are honoring the 40 years is by inviting all former Dutch Days grand marshals to participate in the festival’s annual parade.

Of the 25 living former grand marshals, 12 have committed to participating in the event. Mask hopes more will be added to the line-up as the kick-off day gets closer, but is happy that the 12 have accepted the invitation once again.

“It’s one more opportunity for us to salute and show appreciation for all that they’ve done,” Mask said.

In addition to honoring the formal marshals, the committee is aiming to bring back some of the history of the celebration by sponsoring a Dutch treasures room that showcases a variety of antique items from the Netherlands.

Mask’s vice-chairwoman Jane Orman-Luker spearheads the treasures room and this year she has several new items.

“We just have a variety of things really,” Orman-Luker said. “It always grows; the things that we do and the pieces that we have in the Dutch treasure room.”

That rich heritage is one reason the Dutch Days Festival has continued to be successful 40 years later, committee officials said. That and the tradition the committee always sticks to, like the Dutch Days dance.

For years the Dutch dance has been the highlight of entertainment for those who participate and those who observe, and Dutch dance coordinator Sheila Huizenga expects this year to be the same, if not better, than those before it.

With 48 dancers of all ages participating in the dance, Huizenga said this will be the biggest Dutch dance in her four years as coordinator.

“For it to keep growing and to build interest in these younger kids is nice to see,” Huizenga said. “Their parents and grandparents participated in the Dutch dance so, I think it says a lot for the residents Fulton to be able to continue the tradition.”

And the tradition is something not envisioned by many community members.

“It’s just become such a celebration of family and community,” Mask said. “It has extended farther than we ever could have dreamed.”