Raindrops cling to blossoms after a morning shower in Pella, Iowa, but gray skies don't dampen the annual Tulip Time spirit. During this weekend, more than 150,000 visitors will come to toast Pella's Dutch heritage—and to be dazzled by 300,000 tulips blooming in red, pink, purple, yellow, coral and white.
Of course, many Midwest towns herald spring with a community festival (click ahead for four more of our favorites). But with more than half the town's 10,000 residents claiming Dutch ancestry, Pella (45 miles southeast of Des Moines) certainly hosts one of the most authentic fests. Locals of all ages clatter around in clogs, lace and britches, often breaking into song or dance. Vendors sell peppery bologna sandwiches and buttery pancakes called poffertjes. Cobblers and blacksmiths work in the pretty Pella Historical Village.
The Tulip Time parade, a twice-daily spectacle, melds Dutch tradition with Main Street Americana. Costumed kids haul buckets of water and brooms to scrub the street clean for the folks to follow: racing cheese mongers, 4-H Club floats, an army of schoolchildren in wooden clogs, high school marching bands and the newly crowned tulip queen, whose megawatt smile shines bright— even through a brief afternoon shower. May 2-4, 2013. (641) 628-4311; pellatuliptime.com
In southwest Michigan, the Blessing of the Blossoms kicks off the state's oldest and largest multicommunity festival. Other highlights include a Shoe Box Float Parade, vintage baseball game and Grand Floral Parade. April 28-May 5, 2013. (269) 982-8016; blossomtimefestival.org
Photo Courtesy of Lydia Holton & The Charleston Chamber of Commerce
In Charleston, Missouri, a 6-mile, luminaria-lined route showcases historic architecture and spring blooms. The 44th annual fest honors the town's 175th birthday with a parade, home and garden tours, an ice cream social and more. April 18-21, 2013. (573) 683-6509; charlestonmo.org
Photo Courtesy of Orleans Chamber of Commerce/ Joey Maul
Bike rides joined the lineup last year at this family-friendly Indiana fest. Bring cash for town-wide yard sales, plus carnival rides and crafts vendors. April 27-May 5, 2013. (812) 865-9930; orleansdogwoodfestival.com