I will miss Tulip Time this year.


Since we cannot experience this year’s festival, I’ll share some of my experiences as a Step On Bus Guide with visiting tourists. This relating is a poor substitute, but it’s better than nothing.


It begins when I don my Dutch costume, the one I’ve worn now for decades. It’s in good shape despite the fact it shrinks a bit every year.


I head to the Civic Center and wait for my assigned bus to arrive. I meet the trip coordinator, exchange pleasantries, find out what she and her group want to see and do, and I board the bus.


I take the microphone and speak. “Goede dag, dames en heren. Ik heet Ray Buursma en vandaag ben ik jullie reisleider. Ik wens jullie een warme en prachtige dag hier in Holland, Michigan.” Of course, no one understands me.


I continue, but now in broken English with the best Dutch accent I can muster.


“I vas told der is somevun on dit bus who knows de Dutch en de Engels. I vil zay de woords in de Dutch en he zays de woords to you in de Engels. Zo, who is dit man? Please, your hand op high hold.”


Of course no one speaks Dutch and they grow confused. I repeat the instructions in a slightly different manner, which creates more confusion and some despair.


After another minute of stringing them along, I ask the tourists what language they speak. “English,” they cry as a group.


“Oohhh,” I reply using my normal voice. “Then I guess I’ll speak in English.


Okay, it sounds corny in writing, but it’s a blast in real life and we all have a good laugh.


Only once was I the butt of my own joke. One bus, full of Canadians, had five Dutch speakers who raised their hands and were ready to interpret for me. That was a shock.


We talk for awhile.


I explain I grew up in Holland. I tell them my parents emigrated from the Netherlands in the early 1950s with five kids, but I was born in Michigan and taught myself some rudimentary Dutch.


I share my recollections of the lifestyle of Michigan Hollanders of the '40s and '50s who came primarily for economic opportunity.


They spoke Dutch to each other in social gatherings and after church.


They were hard workers, deeply devoted to their religious principles. They had Sunday services, Sunday school for kids after church, catechism and/or youth group on Wednesdays, and Cadets (think Christian Boy Scouts) and Calvinettes (Christian Girl Scouts) on Tuesdays. Prayers were said before and after every meal followed by Bible reading, and the “Now I lay me down to sleep” prayer was said before bedtime.


We head to Pillar Church, Holland’s first, and discuss the reasons the earliest Dutch immigrants left the Netherlands — dissatisfaction with the Dutch government’s church, establishment of their own church in the Netherlands, reprisals from the government, and a decision to leave for religious freedom.


I point out the vanity of human nature as evidenced by Pillar church’s history. Once the church had been established, it faced its own schism. The great debate causing the fracture was liberals wanted hymns to be sung during services while conservatives argued for psalms alone to be sung.


We continue to Centennial Park and discuss the fountain where, urban legend has it, someone added detergent decades ago and created a giant bathtub.


We view Van Raalte’s statue, more impressive than the diminutive man himself who barely reached five feet.


On through Kollen Park, past the Cappon House, home of Holland’s first mayor, and along Tulip Lane as we study the history and characteristics of tulips.


We reach Window on the Waterfront where we view Windmill DeZwaan (The Swan) on Windmill Island.


I relate how Willard Wichers and Carter Brown sought an authentic Dutch windmill to be brought from the Netherlands and reconstructed here. Many thought the visionaries were loons, but they persevered.


The Dutch government found a windmill ready to be demolished and sold it to Holland for $2,800 instead.


The structure was disassembled, shipped to America, and reconstructed complete with bullet holes caused by bored gunners aboard Luftwaffe planes.


We head through the downtown area and seek signs of traditional Dutch architecture on Eighth Street. Reconstruction has eliminated many of the details, but some still exist.


Then it’s back to the Civic Center where the tour is concluded.


Let’s hope things are back to normal next year.


— Ray Buursma is a resident of Holland. Contact him at writetoraybuursma@gmail.com.