A flood of orange at the Holland Festival

From left: Teresa Aquino, Jala Felto, Wendy Lale at the Holland Festival. 399081_03. Picture: ROB CAREW.

By Ethan Benedicto

From the food, games, clothes and rides, the Holland Festival celebrated everything Dutch on Saturday 27 April, marking the event as its 50th anniversary.

While the festival’s last four celebrations were held at Akoonah Park in Berwick, a new venue at the market hall at Caribbean Park was chosen for a range of reasons, one of them being due to “weather insecurities”.

Berwick Rotary Club treasurer, and one of the team of four who had organised the festival over the last five months, Paul Rubens said that “the main reason is that we want to be out somewhere weatherproof”.

“The Caribbean Gardens has 7000 square metres under roof that we can use, and we’ve used every inch of it,” he said.

The festival proceeded without a hitch, with returning attractions such as Dutch soldiers from the Eighty Years’ War – equipped with halberds, pikes and armour – and cultural food galore.

“It was amazing, we filled the place out but at the same time there was a fantastic buzz in there – it was like a big European Munich beer festival,” Mr Rubens said.

“We expected 4000 to 5000 people and we got well over 6000 people.

“We’ve had a lot of Dutch exhibitors there as well, about 100 sites and they were all taken,” he said.

Other attractions included Dutch costumes dating back 150 to 200 years, which were being displayed on mannequins, and Campagne Batavia, the group of steel-clad soldiers who fired their muskets over the lakes.

“They looked awesome, they were an army corps that won the first battle against the Spanish during the Eighty Years’ War.

“We also had a DJ and a saxophonist who came out from the Netherlands, especially for us and another gig,” Mr Rubens said.

DJ Xtralers and saxophonist Martijn De Jong were the names of the performers, and they were accompanied by other groups such as The Accordion Accents Ensemble and ZING! Sing in Dutch.

Other performers included young prodigy Indi-Lee, Rudy the One Man Band, Possum on the Roof, The Van Tongeren Sisters and Shivantha.

Mr Rubens said that the festival, which aligned with the celebration of King’s Day in Netherlands, was catered for families, with children being a focal point in the Rotary Club’s planning.

Tickets were $22 for an adult, $16 for concession and $10 for children, who then had access to all the rides the festival had to offer.

“You work for months and months and you hope it all works out and that people come, but you don’t know until the day,” Mr Rubens said.

The Rotary Club, with Mr Rubens and six others, had been working on the festival’s specifics since November 2023, saying that organising the event had “become a little bit of an obsession”.

“A hundred per cent of the proceeds will go to charity, and everybody was a volunteer.

“Not that money is the important thing, but we probably doubled or tripled the amount we ever made,” Mr Rubens said.

Also present was the Netherlands Ambassador Ardi Stoios-Braken, who visited the festival between 1pm and 4pm.

“The embassy has always supported us in advertising and other ways, and I felt a bit honoured about it,” Mr Rubens said.

The festival was flooded by the colour orange, a traditional nod to the royal Dutch family which consisted of members from the House of Orange, dating as far back as the 1600s to William the Third, or William the Orange.