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ORANGE CITY, Iowa | Each spring, Orange City residents scrub the streets and roll out the red tulips (and yellow tulips and more) for the Orange City Tulip Festival, a celebration of the area's unique Dutch heritage.
Four immigrants from the Netherlands traveled northwest from the Dutch settlement in Pella, Iowa, in 1869 to seek land for a second Iowa Dutch colony. They found a site in Sioux County.
Initially, the site was named Holland, a nod to the homeland of settlers Henry Hospers, Leendert Vander Meer, Dirk Vanden Bos and Hendrick Jan Van De Waa.
The town was soon established and called Orange City, honoring the Royal House of Orange in the old country. Orange City later replaced Calliope as county seat.
By 1871, much of the land around Orange City had been homesteaded, causing additional settlers to venture northwest to a town soon named Sioux Center, for its central location in Sioux County. Sioux Center was incorporated in 1891.
The two cities are now bustling industrial, agricultural, educational, commercial and residential centers. Each boasts a mix of public and private schools, a roster of manufacturers drawing employees from several counties, and Northwestern College in Orange City (enrollment 1,205) and Dordt College in Sioux Center (enrollment 1,459).
The region's Dutch heritage is literally on parade multiple times per day during the Orange City Tulip Festival on the third weekend each May. The 2015 event, slated for May 14-16, will be the 75th celebration.
Residents entertain visitors while paying homage to their Dutch roots by scrubbing the streets, wearing wooden shoes, serving a variety of food found first in the Netherlands and practicing Dutch folk dancing. Tens of thousands of tulips rise from residential and commercial green space, adding to the colorful spectacle and turning thoughts to spring.
And, since 1937 a Tulip Queen has been crowned and an honorary dignitary called the "Burgomeester" has reigned over the celebration. For the first time in 2014, the official "Burgomeester" was a woman, Deb De Haan, who also serves as Orange City mayor.