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WATCH NOW: Orange City Tulip Festival returns for 80th year
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WATCH NOW: Orange City Tulip Festival returns for 80th year

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ORANGE CITY, Iowa -- After last year's celebration of Dutch heritage was canceled amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the Orange City Tulip Festival is back for its 80th year. 

Thousands of people have been known to flock to the Northwest Iowa city, which has a population of just over 6,100, to marvel at dancing children and adults in the streets, indulge in Dutch treats and visit replica windmills. This year's festival runs from May 13-15.

"All the volunteers are excited about it. We're happy to be able to bring it back and take some precautions as we need to," said Mike Hofman, executive director of the Orange City Chamber of Commerce. "We take the health of our volunteers and visitors very seriously. But, with the vaccine rollouts and the case numbers in our area, we feel we're to a point where we can proceed with caution." 

Tulip Queen Grace Dahl talks about the upcoming 2021 Orange City Tulip Festival.

Hofman said extra handwashing stations will be available and social distancing will be implemented inside buildings where events are taking place. Masks may be required inside some of those facilities when social distancing isn't possible, he said.

"We'll have extra handwashing stations. We always have handwashing stations and that kind of stuff," he said. "We're just looking at the CDC guidelines and staying in contact with local and state health officials, as well."

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Attendees can look forward to two parades daily -- one in the afternoon and one in the early evening, which feature authentic Dutch costumes. Before the afternoon parade, the city's mayor and council inspect the streets, declare them not clean enough for the queen, and then, the townspeople proceed to scrub them.

"It's really a big spectacle, which is kind of a lead-in to the parade. It's a piece that people love to see," Hofman said. "We're making a new float for this year, which will be a nice draw for people."

Another new addition is the Tour de Tulips, a 21-mile bicycle ride to the airport and back. That event, as well as the Tulip Festival Road Race, a 5K/10K run, both kick off at 8:30 a.m. on May 15. 

This year's nightly musical production, one of the festival's most cherished events, is Rodgers & Hammerstein's "Cinderella." The show, held at the Knight Center at Unity Christian, highlights local talent. Watch it in-person or stream it live at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday, or at 8:00 p.m. on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. 

"That's always a big hit," Hofman said of the show. "We anticipate actually selling out all five shows in the next couple weeks.

Of course, the tulips themselves are a "really big draw," according to Hofman. In late April, he said the flowers were just beginning to top through the soil. 

"We've got some leaves and stuff, but we don't have any buds in a lot of areas. It kind of depends on whether they've been in the sun or out of the sun, at this point," he said. "We plant three different varieties each year of early blooming, mid blooming and late blooming. We take into account that spring is unpredictable in Northwest Iowa."

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