Oak Harbor Chamber combines new tastes with old traditions this weekend

— Created April 21, 2021 by Alec Brown

By Alec Brown

              Holland Happening won’t be happening this year—but the Oak Harbor Chamber of Commerce is making sure islanders have something to celebrate. The Klompen Canal Race and Food Truck Turnout will be this weekend from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. both days. The Klompen Canal Race will take place at 2 p.m. each day. Over six food trucks are confirmed and more are still waiting for confirmation.

              As to why Holland Happening, an annual celebration of the island’s Dutch heritage, is canceled again this year—one can already guess. The last Holland Happening saw over 10,000 attendees, including people from the mainland and Canada. Current state guidelines simply don’t allow such a gathering.

“With it being COVID and we can’t do what we would love to be able to do, we’re doing a small two-day event which will be the food truck event, and it’s going to be right here beside the Chamber where the farmer’s market usually is,” stated Oak Harbor Chamber Executive Director, Vicki Graham. “And then we’re doing our Klompen Canal Race and that’s a big hit with kids, adults, anyone; you purchase the wooden shoes and you decorate them any way you want to decorate them, then we race them down a canal we have made.”

This Klompen Canal Race doesn’t work quite the same as other races, however.

“We’re going to have the canal put up at the chamber to race the shoes,” Graham explained. “Now the way this race goes is a little different. The first one over the waterfall wins, the middle shoe over the waterfall wins and the last shoe over the waterfall wins. There are three winners in each race. Instead of first, second and third, there’s first, middle, and last.

              “The Klompen Race is from 2 to 3 p.m.,” Graham continued. “Everybody can purchase [the klompen] on that day and we’ll have the table set up for you to decorate them. We have a race on Saturday and then a race on Sunday. The reason why we say 2 to 3 p.m. is because when you put the shoes in, depending on how the shoes are made, sometimes it takes a while for it to get down the canal. You can’t put your hands in there, you can’t help your shoes down the canal. We have one designated person that makes tidal waves, so that can help push the shoe down the canal.”

              Klompen can be purchased for $5 each while supplies last, either in advance at the chamber office or before the event. Winners of the race will receive gift baskets. Photos of the assembled baskets will be posted on the chamber’s Facebook page —  facebook.com/oakharborchamber/.

              But this weekend isn’t just the Klompen Canal Races. Everyone who attends needs to eat! That’s where the Food Truck Turnout comes in.

“Where the farmers market was in previous years, that’s where our food trucks are going to be set up,” Graham stated. “It’s going to be two days: Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.—and of course if there’s a line at 8 p.m. you can finish out the line.”

Attending food trucks include Julie’s Lumpia, Robbie’s Donuts, Orlando’s BBQ, Northwest Kettle Corn, the regular carnival food truck, and more.

“We serve lumpia, rice noodles, fried rice, chicken adobo, bubble tea and strawberry lemonade,” said Julie Knox of Julie’s Lumpia.

Northwest Kettle Corn will be serving kettle corn – no Hawaiian shaved ice this time – and the carnival food truck will be serving all the staples of a fair, according to Graham.

“She will have elephant ears and funnel cakes, cotton candy; she will have ice cream cones, root beer floats, banana splits, frozen bananas, and chocolate covered strawberries,” she said.

All public health and safety guidelines will be closely followed.

“Everyone is to adhere to all the guidelines,” Graham said. “You need to wear your face mask, you need to keep your social distance. We will have a handwashing station, we will have sanitizer, we will have picnic tables out so your family can go sit at the picnic table and enjoy the sunshine and there will be hand sanitizer at each table to make sure everyone is staying safe and clean.”

              In addition to food and wooden shoes, the chamber has something special for veterans and first responders.

“We have teamed up with Operation Gratitude and Navy Federal Credit Union—[they] made a substantial donation to Operation Gratitude, so we have bags to hand out to veterans, active duty and first responders,” Graham stated.

The bags, which have been assembled by volunteers from the Oak Harbor Chamber of Commerce and the local Navy Federal Credit Union branch, include personal care items, handmade paracord bracelets, and hand-written letters from citizens around the nation expressing their appreciation for their service.

This comes as a part of Operation Gratitude’s drive to distribute 1,000 care packages to veterans on Whidbey Island ahead of May’s Military Appreciation Month. In addition to the baskets handed out at the Food Truck Turnout, more will also be delivered to veterans in nursing and assisted living facilities over the weekend.

“This collaborative initiative offers people a chance to give back to area veterans in a tangible way, furthering Operation Gratitude’s mission of building community and understanding between military service members or veterans and civilians,” Operation Gratitude stated.

              The Oak Harbor Chamber of Commerce dedicates this event to the community.

“We want to keep some kind of happening in Holland Happening,” said Graham. “We’d just like to invite the community to come out and have fun and just enjoy the day, because this is for them,” she said.

According to Graham, it was essential to throw an event in the place of Holland Happening to keep people hopeful.

“It’s really important because it’s so fun, and we’re still going through COVID…but we still need to be able to put a smile on the community’s face,” she said. “We need to have some sense of normalcy going, to give that light of hope—that there is light at the end of this tunnel and we’re going to get there. We’re gonna make it.”

To learn more about the event, visit the Chamber’s website at oakharborchamber.chambermaster.com/events. For information about Operation Gratitude, visit OperationGratitude.com or follow them on twitter @OpGratitude.