ORANGE CITY, Iowa | Harley Kleinwolterink is 75. So is the celebration he cherishes, the Orange City Tulip Festival.
There is a difference, however. The Tulip Festival was born in 1936. But Kleinwolterink, an Orange City native who serves as the parade marshal this week, was born in December 1939. The festival experienced a hiatus as a result of World War II, which helps to explain the gap in mathematics.
The retired Sioux County Courthouse custodian pays homage to the festival's inaugural year with a float he helped create, a replica of the 1936 Tulip Festival parade winner, the Depression-era float used by the late Jacob Van Hoff to promote his Wooden Shoe Factory in town.
Where many parade floats feature tulips, colorful streamers and moving parts, the Wooden Shoe Factory replica is fairly spartan, devoid of fancy bells and whistles.
That's the idea.
"People will wonder where the flowers are," Kleinwolterink says. "In 1936, this float didn't have flowers."
The float back then featured Van Hoff, a couple of logs from which he made Dutch wooden shoes, and several pairs of shoes he'd carved and hollowed. The float also had Van Hoff's tools of the trade, metal scrapers and augurs he put to use on a block of bass wood to fashion footwear made famous in Holland.
Kleinwolterink studied photos from 1936 that showed Van Hoff and his winning parade entry. He took the advice from members of the Tulip Festival Steering Committee and came up with a float that harkens back to this party's maiden voyage.
"There are 20 pairs of shoes on this float," he says. "We also printed the prices you'd pay for shoes back then. We found those prices ($1.50 for adults, 75 cents for children's shoes) from a 1936 Pella, Iowa, newspaper."
Orange City was settled in 1869 by four Dutch immigrants who left their settlement in Pella and headed northwest to establish a second colony.
Gene Haverdink, a retired farmer and feed dealer, helped build the replica float. His main contribution involved making the replica tools. That, and the fact all the work was done inside his shop on the west edge of town.
Haverdink, the parade marshal three years ago, and Kleinwolterink are among dozens of Orange City residents who have a long history of volunteer work with the festival.
Kleinwolterink's association as a volunteer began nearly three decades ago when he made a scissors sharpener used in the Tulip Festival Heritage Walk. The stone employed in the sharpening process comes from Holland. The scissors sharpener remains in use.
Since that time, Kleinwolterink has helped build various city and church floats, starting with the float from his church, First Reformed Church, of Orange City, in the early to mid-1980s.
He designed a new 40-foot float for First Reformed Church four years ago. The three-tulip float is a favorite of young and old alike, especially children fixated on several rabbit figures that move along the metal tracks.
"The float is built atop an old bus," says Kleinwolterink. "The pieces swing on casters. Gene does all the angle-iron underneath the float."
And while Kleinwolterink relishes the outcome and the work he's done on his church float and the float designed for the festival's 75th year, he won't ride either one during the parade held twice each day, Thursday through Saturday.
"The parade marshal rides in a horse-and-buggy toward the front of the parade," he says. "I'll be up there with my wife, Phyllis, in traditional Dutch costumes."
The Kleinwolterinks, who recently celebrated their 54th wedding anniversary, will be joined in the parade by their two sons and their twin grandchildren, who are about to turn 3 years old.
The twins, Harley says, will illustrate that Grandpa doesn't corner the market on Dutch handiwork in their home.
"The twins will also have traditional Dutch outfits," he says. "Outfits that were made by Phyllis."