The Dutch have been celebrating their Queen’s birthday with orange enthusiasm since 1885. This year will be no different with Amsterdam’s famous festivities expected to draw record crowds. TIFFANY JANSEN reports on the capital’s party plans.
Sidewalks are marked off in sections with chalk or tape, claimed with a name or simply the word “bezet,” or occupied. Stores sell orange-coloured paraphernalia and Dutchies dress themselves in loud, orange clothing and accessories.
Hold onto your hats, because preparations for Queen’s Day 2011 are in full swing.
Queen’s Day got its start as Princessedag (Princess’ Day) on 31 August 1885 to celebrate the birthday of Wilhelmina. When Wilhelmina’s daughter Juliana took to the throne in 1948, the festivities were moved to 30 April - Juliana’s birthday.
After Juliana abdicated and Queen Beatrix took to the throne, it was decided to keep the date as the day of celebration, both to honour Juliana and because the weather promised to be much more accommodating than during Queen Beatrix’s actual birthday on 31 January.
These days, celebrations begin on 29 April and continue through to the 30th. Stands serving beer and snack food are set up on the streets everywhere you turn. Games, DJs, musical performances and concerts are offered for revellers of all ages.
Dutch government allows the selling of goods without a permit. Everyone takes advantage of this leniency by claiming their own small piece of sidewalk, park, square or stoop to sell everything from clothes to toys to CDs and DVDs and everything in between. For two whole days, the Netherlands turns into one big yard sale.
By far, the most popular place to go for Queen’s Day is Amsterdam. The capital’s famed street party goes on for more than 24 hours and attracts large numbers from all over the world.
All over the city, visitors can expect parades, street theatre, fireworks, craft fairs, flea markets, bands and children’s parties.
Damrak, Leidsestraat, Rokin and Spui are the biggest hot spots, while bands are featured on the Prinsengracht and Rembrandtplein. For the kids, head to Vondelpark.
Of course, the popularity of Queen’s Day in Amsterdam does raise one issue: over-crowding. In 2010, 800,000 people came to Amsterdam to celebrate.
“This year Queen’s Day is on a Saturday, so we expect the same numbers or even more,” says Iris Reshef, spokesperson for the Amsterdam Gemeente Service Board.
The numbers also depend on the weather forecast, but, even so, accommodating that many people in one city is no easy task.
Reshef, says event organizers have a plan. “Our strategy is to spread the visitors all over the city. We are asking inhabitants of the city to celebrate in their own neighbourhood to prevent a large group of people in the city centre and the big squares of Amsterdam.
“Outdoor parties will also end at 20.00 (21.00 at the Museumplein), so visitors have enough time to leave the city and get back home.”
The organisation also warns visitors about alcohol consumption. “Most of the problems that occur on Queen’s Day are with people who are too drunk and get aggressive or, even worse, alcohol poisoning.”
Though unable to give exact numbers, Reshef reports that the city will do its best to ensure the safety and convenience of visitors to Amsterdam. Extra policemen, ambulances, and first aid stations will be on hand throughout the city, while ground traffic controllers and trams using special routes through Amsterdam will work to ensure a steady and safe flow of traffic.
If you do decide to brave Amsterdam this Queen’s Day, Reshef promises an unforgettable experience. “In the canals you will see a lot of people on thousands of brightly decorated boats. You can go on one of the boats if you wish, but it is also nice to find a spot to watch from the bridges.
“There are lots of free markets throughout the streets and parks of Amsterdam. The largest market is reserved for the youngest residents, for children at the Vondelpark. They set up shops selling toys and old clothes. There are also children playing instruments and singing songs to earn money.
“All the cafĂŠs are open on Queen’s Day, some with live music. At the Museumplein there is a big event with concerts, but almost all the city squares organize events.”
Festivities, however, are most certainly not limited to Amsterdam. Rotterdam, Utrecht, and The Hague also offer an excellent Queen’s Day experience with all the spice and flavour of Amsterdam, but with smaller crowds.
The action is not limited to the big cities either. Queen’s Day celebrations occur all over the country, so no matter where you go, there is a special treat.
Should a glimpse of the royal family be what you are after, head to Thorn and Weert in the province of Limburg, where the royal family will be passing through this Queen’s Day.
Pick up the May 2011 issue for Tiffany's story on the Dutch and their English.
Photo: ComĂšnicaTI, Flickr
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