Tulips—The Wonder of Them All

I am sure that you have noticed that nature is in bloom again (Excuse me while I grab a tissue!). The grass is greening. The leaves are reappearing on the trees (Excuse me while I sneeze!). The dandelions and daffodils can be seen all around (Excuse me while I dab by tearing eyes!).

Oh, yes, and allergies are in full swing!

I am not going to complain (much) about my allergies since I do think the beautiful reawakening of nature this time of year is worth the trade-off of itchy eyes and sneezing.

Tulips are frequently in bloom at this time of year in the Albany, NY, area—especially in Washington Park although I have seen a few tulips sharing their beauty here at Maria College also.

As you may know from some of my past blogs, I am a life-long Albany, NY, native who revels in local history and culture, and the tulip is a flower that epitomizes this area and its Dutch heritage. In 1609, Henry Hudson came to this area on behalf of the Dutch East India Company looking for trading possibilities which developed with the Mohawk and Mohican inhabitants here, and Hudson then claimed the area for the Dutch Republic. By 1624, a permanent Dutch settlement had been established here.

Of course, we know that Holland, which had been a part of the Dutch Republic, is famous for its tulips, so naturally, the tulip ended up here in Albany. In particular, tulips are found in abundance in Washington Park where many were planted when the park was designed in the mid-1800s. Did you know that much of the land that is currently the Park had originally been a city burial ground?!

Now, we celebrate the tulip and our heritage each May with the Tulip Festival and the crowning of a Tulip Queen, events which began in 1949 when Erastus Corning was mayor.

Actually, the Tulip Festival is grounded in a wonderful story of “caring service to others” and mercy which I first wrote about in 2016: Nijmegen became one of Albany’s sister cities shortly after World War II due to an act of mercy that Albany, NY, bestowed on the people of the city of Nijmegen which was horribly ravaged during World War II by German troops. After the United States 82nd Airborne Division and other Allied forces freed Nijmegen from German occupation in the autumn of 1944, the people of Albany, NY, donated about 300 tons of humanitarian supplies, including over 20,000 pairs of shoes and boots, which were shipped to the Dutch city in the summer of 1947. In thanks to Albany, Nijmegen sent several thousand tulip bulbs which were planted in Washington Park leading to the first Albany Tulip Festival in 1949!

And Albany has a specific variety of tulip as its official flower chosen in 1948 by Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands—the Orange Wonder!

You can read all about the Albany Tulip Festival’s history and about this year’s Festival taking place on May 13 and 14.

Until next time…


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