Human Flower Project
Dahlias and Dutch Style
The Bloemencorso (flower parade) of Valkenswaard pairs the stoutest of flowers with robust Dutch aesthetics.
Gezichten van de zee
float by Buurtschap Graafschap
The second Sunday in September means dahlias will roll in downtown Valkenswaard, a town of 31,000 in southern Holland. This spot used to be renowned for the training of falcons (a bit of medieval niche-marketing), but in the last century and a half has grown into a center of the European cigar industry.
Composition V, 1914
Museum of Modern Art, New York
Yesterday, however, neither birds of prey nor tobacco were on people’s minds, but flowers and the Netherlands’ sea-sodden soul. Valkenswaard held its annual parade of dahlias, bloemencorso (this good link will blast you briefly with an AM radio announcement, in Dutch). The event this year celebrated the sea, with pirate ships, curling waves, and giant fish, all covered with dahlias.
Just a gander at some of these floats is exciting, a wonderful contrast from U.S. floral parades. Our Disney-strained eyes see the influence of Holland’s magnificent art history, the robust gaiety of Franz Hals, saturated color and geometry of de Stijl, even the puzzle-art of M.C. Escher.
As you might imagine, there’s no shortage of flower parades in Holland. This site mentions twenty-eight major bloemencorsos all across the country. Most of them take place in August and September. (Holland-bound travelers, take note.)
We can’t resist passing along this photo from Valkenswaard’s 2000 Bloemencorso, dedicated to “Bach Burgers & Buitenlui.” Not only were parade riders tucked in cubbyholes of the composer’s curly wig, his jaw dropped and more float riders, dressed in white, of course, stood in as his teeth and sang the length of the parade route.
Toto, I don’t think we’re in Pasadena anymore.