Every May in Holland Michigan, something special happens. The tulips bloom. Not just a few, but over 5 million! Tulip Time is a festival that celebrates the town’s Dutch heritage. In the 1960’s, the town purchased an authentic windmill from the Netherlands’s named De Zwaan (the Swan). As a Swedish immigrant, Kirsten was the obvious doll choice and couldn’t wait to go!
Knowing there would be high volumes of traffic during Tulip Time, I left my hotel really early in the morning. With Kirsten secure in my backpack, off we headed to see De Zwaan. To my surprise, the town was calm and sleepy. The morning was cool and I was able to enjoy the sites. The whole town embraces their Dutch culture and small windmills are everywhere. Before heading to Windmill Island Gardens, I decided to take advantage of the quite morning and get some pictures of Kirsten.
Windmill Island Gardens is the home of De Zwaan Windmill. The windmill was built in 1884 from pieces of older windmills. It was damaged in WWII, and had fallen into disrepair. City officials from Holland, MI worked with the Dutch to purchase the windmill. As I waited in line to purchase my tickets, the sights were beautiful! The colorful buildings, the tulips and of course, De Zwaan. First, I headed to the windmill for my tour. My guide was dressed in authentic Dutch clothing and wearing wooden shoes!
We were able to visit 5 of the 7 floors. Each level, is smaller than the one before. The layout reminded me of a lighthouse, with the stairs spiraling up, hugging the side of the building.
It was on the fifth floor that we were able to see the millstones. One set for show and one for grinding. Alisa Crawford, De Zwaan’s miller, just happened to walk through! She stopped and talked with us for a moment. After seeing her do a couple of interviews on TV, it was neat to see her standing there in person. Alisa Crawford is the only woman member of the Dutch milling guild, and the only American to have traveled to the Netherlands to complete the Dutch Mill Society’s training program for millers. As the miller, Alisa must keep moving all the time. She lowers and raises the millstones to keep the flour the right consistency. She rotates the 40 foot blades to keep them in the wind. At times, Alisa has to climb out onto the blades, wearing only a harness. That’s the part where Kirsten decided she didn’t want to be a miller.
It started sprinkling as we went out on the deck, but the views were beautiful. After purchasing some freshly ground flour, we headed to the tulip field and then the little village.
The gift shop held so many cute things, including Coo Coo Clocks! Kirsten searched for souvenirs that were just her size. She found a windmill and a trinket box to spruce up the cabin. Then, the part Kirsten had been waiting for, the Wooden Shoe Shop!
Kirsten found wooden shoes just her size! At the engraving table, the choice was simple. She wanted her name on them! To see Kirsten’s wooden shoes and her souvenirs displayed visit Kirsten’s Cabin.
Even though it rained a little and a lot of the tulips hadn’t opened yet, it was a great day! One that Kirsten will always remember.