Holland Happening’s back this weekend!

— Created April 27, 2022 by Kathy Reed

By Kathy Reed

It may look a little bit different this year, but for the most part, the Oak Harbor Chamber of Commerce’s Holland Happening event is back.

Activities are planned for both Saturday and Sunday in Windjammer Park and the traditional Holland Happening parade is set to roll through downtown Oak Harbor at 11 a.m. Saturday.

“It is exciting,” said Vicki Graham, executive director of the Oak Harbor Chamber. “You can just see, feel and smell it in the air that we are getting back to some sense of normalcy. We’re taking lemons and turning them into lemonade and we are so happy to get to give back to the community this year.”

It has been two years since the last Holland Happening Parade, so to bring back that popular tradition is something big to look forward to, according to Graham. This year’s Grand Marshal is Gene Phelps, owner of Gene’s Art and Frame, who just celebrated his 100th birthday. Parade sponsor this year is Whidbey Weekly.

 But there have been some big changes to the event  – most notably the annual carnival.

“We won’t have the carnival due to carnival staffing,” Graham explained. “That is okay, because we have asked our nonprofits to supply old fashioned carnival games.”

This year’s “Street Fair” will take place in Windjammer Park from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. There will be 23 nonprofit organizations participating, along with about 20 arts and crafts vendors. Each of the nonprofit participants was asked to come up with an old fashioned carnival game for people to play. Each booth is responsible for selling its own tickets and providing prizes. Any proceeds stay with that organization, which Graham said provides them with an extra fundraising opportunity.

Another very popular tradition during Holland Happening is the Klompen Canal race. Last year the Chamber held a scaled back version of the race along with a food truck rally. This year, the Chamber is proud to offer several canal races both Saturday and Sunday. Races will take place at 2, 4 and 6 p.m. Saturday and at noon, 2 and 4 p.m. Sunday. An additional business-only race will take place at 5 p.m. Sunday.

Supplies of mini klompen were extremely limited this year and the tiny wooden shoes are already sold out. However, Graham has come up with a ducky alternative.

“We could only get our hands on 100 mini klompen, which we thought was plenty, but they sold out,” she said. “We had to come up with an alternative, so we are using rubber duckies for one of the races each day. The ducks are $3 each and they can be decorated with permanent markers and whatever else people want to add to them. Then they can take them home and play with them in the bath afterwards.”

The 4 p.m. race Saturday and the 2 p.m. race Sunday will feature the rubber ducks. The traditional selection of winners remains the same for each race – prizes are awarded to the first, middle and last shoe or duck over the falls.

“The very first year I did the Klompen Canal we had one race on Saturday and one on Sunday,” said Graham. “The excitement of the crowd was just amazing. So this year we’re having three races each day. The community has jumped on it and just loves it. When you see everyone laughing and having fun, it’s really exciting.”

The Rotary Club of Oak Harbor is also bringing a car show to Windjammer Park from 1 to 4 p.m. Saturday. The inaugural Holland Happening Windjammer Car Show will be located in the parking lot at the SW Beeksma Drive entrance to the park. There is no preregistration – all those who wish to participate can show up with their vehicles prior to the start of the show. Cost is $20 per vehicle and the entry includes a dash plaque. Trophies will be awarded to the top three finishers in the People’s Choice voting.

“We’re hoping for more than 50 vehicles – that’s always the goal,” said Steve Schwalbe, the car show’s organizer for the Rotary. “The more, the merrier.”

Some may remember the Rotary has held a car show along Pioneer Way’s Walk of Honor in the past. The new show moved to the park because organizers felt it made more sense to be closer to the festivities.

“It’s our inaugural Windjammer Car Show, but it’s not our first car show for Holland Happening,” Schwalbe said. “In the past we’ve had trucks, motorcycles and cars enter. If they pay the 20 bucks, I’m happy. All donations go to programs we support, like scholarships, our backpack food program or food for the homeless. But it’s a fun community event associated with Holland Happening.”

Trophies will be awarded at 4:30 p.m. Saturday and the event will be canceled in the event of rain. Learn more about the Rotary car show at ohrotary.org/event/holland-happening-windjammer-car-show/.

So while it may look a little different this year, Graham said she is very happy to be able to bring the 53rd annual Holland Happening celebration to Oak Harbor.

“I think it is the remembrance of history, the tradition and a celebration of where we came from,” she said about why Holland Happening has remained so popular. “Not everybody is Dutch, but we can share the history and tradition of part of the community. It’s a way of saying ‘Here we are.'”

Find more details about Holland Happening at oakharborchamber.com.