ORANGE CITY, Iowa | When she was in high school, Brande Pals was a member of the Dutch Dozen, a highlight of the Orange City Tulip Festival.

Pals now co-directs the singing and dancing production, which is composed of 12 young women and 12 young men, along with elementary school music teacher Sharon Foughty, who taught most of the high school students Dutch songs when they were younger.

"I love it ," said Pals, who graduated from MOC-Floyd Valley High School in 2007. "Dutch Dozen was my favorite part of the festival when I was in high school."

It's likely a favorite of many festival-goers, too. The performances were so well attended last year, Pals said they ran out of chairs.

The Dutch Dozen perform at City Hall during the festival. The group also leads the senior Dutch Dancers during the Straat Feest or street festival, which takes place daily on Central Avenue.

Straat Fest features dance and song performances by locals in Dutch costumes. During this event, council members inspect the streets before street scrubbing. It's Dutch tradition that the streets be spotless.

"We've had some really big crowds," Pals said of the Dutch Dozen's shows. "Between our first and second performance we had the guys hauling chairs out to set up more."

Young women from MCO-Floyd Valley High School and Unity Christian High School audition in late January for 12 spots. Two alternates are also chosen. The young women who are selected then pick their partners for the performance. 

"We've had really good tryouts the last couple of years. We've turned away more girls than we've taken," Pals said. "Usually about five or six girls is what we replace every year, depending on how many we graduate or if any of the girls make the Tulip Court, then they wouldn't be in Dutch Dozen."

During the festival, the ladies wear traditional Volendam costumes, which include a striped apron, embroidered top, black jacket, black skirt and pointy white hat. The look of Old Holland is further accented with signature orange wooden shoes.

"They sing six songs in Dutch. Some are traditional, like kids songs," Pals said of the songs which pay homage to the act of sweeping, windmills and tulips.

Pals said the Dutch Dozen's performance doesn't change much from year to year, if at all. For at least 10 years, Pals said there were no deviations in the group's repertoire until her sister, Samara Cramer, wrote a song for the 75th Tulip Festival.

 "Daar bij die Molen" ("There by the Windmill") is a classic song that dates back to the very first Orange City Tulip Festival and is a favorite year after year. The Dutch Dozen perform the song on a darkened stage. Black lights shine on the ladies' orange wooden shoes and their sleeves, which mimic the shape of windmill blades as they rotate their arms.

"It's a lot of fun. The kids really love it," Pals said. "People really enjoy it because the kids have such a great time doing it."

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