The horrors of World War II and the humanity that emerged from it forever linked Albany with a city in northwestern Europe in a friendship forged with flowers.
In 1944, U.S. troops liberated the war-ravaged city of Nijmegen, the oldest city in the Netherlands, which had suffered greatly under Nazi Germany. In 1947 Mayor Erastus Corning, conscious of Albany's Dutch history, spearheaded a citywide initiative that resulted in sending badly needed relief — 300 tons of supplies including food, clothing, toys and construction materials to rebuild Nijmegen.
Two cities, 4,000 miles apart and 70 years later, have become the municipal equivalents of "best friends forever," according to Gavin Berger, Albany's interim Director of Cultural Affairs. "Nijmegen, in the Netherlands, our sister city, which we've had a long history, which is basically the birth of the Tulip Festival when we given the tulips that began Tulip Festival."
Of course there's more to the story, as told by Anja Adriaans, founder of "FAN" – the Friendship Albany-Nijmegen Association. "Queen Wilhemina donated 2,000 tulip bulbs in 1948 and the connection to Nijmegen, which is of course interesting to us, is that our mayor in Nijmegen, Mayor Hustinx, and Mayor Corning in Albany, they were in contact and Mayor Hustinx was asked for his advice, how can Albany contact the queen and can we contact the queen because we want to have a Albany flower. We want to have and we think of the tulip as our city flower, and then they asked through Hustinx I think the gardener of the Loo, the Loo is the palace of Queen Wilhelmina, and Queen Wilhelmina she proposed a new variety of the tulip, which was the Orange Wonder. And now you have the Orange Wonder as your city flower."
That crate of tulips helped Albany launch its signature social event — this weekend marking its 69th year — Berger extending the city's invitation to one and all to be part of what has become a local rite of spring. "Well, unfortunately we're gonna have rain, but rain or shine we will be out there, our vendors will be there. Last year we had rain and we still had a great time. Right up till today the tulips have been perfect. The good news it looks like this rain is only gonna be mostly on Saturday and on Mother's Day we'll hopefully have less rain."
Berger notes Adriaans will be part of the Tulip Festival, adding another link to the chain of friendship between Albany and Nijmegen: "She will be at the tent this Sunday, including some pretty cool panels and video and history of that great partnership."
The 69th Annual Tulip Festival is Saturday and Sunday in Albany’s Washington Park.
For GPS directions to the main park entrance, use 1 New Scotland Ave, Albany NY 12208.
CDTA will provide complimentary shuttle service to Washington Park at these designated free parking locations:
Free handicap parking
- Albany Medical Center parking lot, located off Robin Street, for customer needing extra assistance or in a wheelchair. That shuttle will drop passengers off at the Madison Avenue/New Scotland entrance to the park.
Free Tulip Festival parking:
- Elk Street parking lot, located behind the State Education Building. The pick-up location will be Elk and Hawk at the stop sign.
- Eagle Street parking lot, located at the corner of Eagle Street and Madison Avenue
Shuttles will run every 20-25 minutes depending on traffic. All parking lots are free to use the weekend of Tulip Festival.