Most evening-lighted parades in Iowa happen during the month of December – but if you’re looking for a lighted parade during warmer weather, be sure to check out the nightly evening parades during the annual Tulip Festival.
During the Tulip Festival, they hold two parades each day: an afternoon 2:30 pm parade and an evening lighted parade that starts at 8:30 pm.
Pella’s Tulip Festival for 2023 is May 5th thru 7th. Visit https://www.pellahistorical.org/tuliptimeschedule for all the details and schedules.
Other guides related to Pella:
- How to have the Pella Tulips all to yourself.
- How to know when Pella’s tulips are in bloom
- My favorite photos of Pella’s tulips
Even though the parade doesn’t start until 8:30 pm, I would recommend arriving in downtown Pella between 6pm and 7pm. This will give you a chance to get catch the tulips before sunset as well as grab a Dutch treat before the show gets going.
During my last visit to the evening lighted parade, I arrived at about 6 pm. I parked on a side street near the Sunken Gardens. This gave me a chance to take in that location and the rest of downtown, as it’s only two blocks away.
After capturing some photos at the Sunken Gardens, I then walked over to Central Park. First on the list was to check out the stars of the show – the tulips. The tulip beds at Pella are always incredible, with such vibrant colors.
As they played the national anthem to kick things off, I headed over to the grandstand area. This was followed by a few short speakers – and the introduction of not only the Pella Tulip Court – but also the court from Orange City, Iowa. If you’re heading to Orange City, I recently put together a guide for first-timers to the Orange City Tulip Festival. After the speakers, the children took to the streets in their costumes and wooden shoes for their traditional Dutch dances. Every so often, the announcer would then send the kids into the crowds to get volunteers to join them in the streets.
I also took a stroll through the downtown, including the Molengracht Plaza, and over to Vermeer Windmill. I made the mistake of having supper before I left. I really should have stopped at their vendors, as their offerings smelled really good. In fact, most of the booths were from schools and churches – all with unique offerings at very reasonable prices and all for great causes.
At around 7 pm, the Air Force Band of Mid-America Shades of Blue Jazz Ensemble started performing. As the concert winded down, the audience nestled into their chosen spot for the parade and the jazz ensemble belted out “In The Mood”, a jazz classic by Iowa native Glenn Miller.
Of course, before the parade can begin – the Dutch tradition of cleaning the streets must take place. They start in front of the grandstand and work their way toward the Vermeer windmill.
Instead of sitting in one location, I moved around the park during the parade to capture photos of the parade against various different backdrops. One thing really caught my attention – every section of the parade route had its own announcer. Yes, every section. They wanted to make sure that you knew what you were seeing and understood its significance, and its history… This was fantastic! Many times in a parade, you come to accept that you don’t always know exactly what the story is behind each item. But Pella takes care of all the details like this. Way to go Pella!
The parade ended by 9:30 and after a short walk back to the car, I was able to take some side streets to reach the edge of town. Virtually no traffic snarls to deal with at all. So over, I arrived at 6 pm and was back on the road home by 9:30 pm. Of course, you can always stay late – and enjoy the tulips at night, here’s a collection of photos of when I visited the tulips at night.
For more information and schedules for the Pella Tulip Festival, visit: https://www.visitpella.com/tulip-time-activities/