Held every year in the Dutch town of Zundert, Bloemencorso is the world’s largest flower parade made entirely by volunteers. Millions of flowers are used to decorate giant floats built from steel wire, cardboard and papier-maché.
The Netherlands is inextricably linked to tulips, but at the annual Bloemencorso flower parade, it’s all about dahlias, as these are the only flowers used to decorate giant floats made of steel wire, cardboard and papier-maché. Every year, members of 20 hamlets from the tiny town of Zundert (population 20,000) work hard to win the title of most beautiful flower float in show. Preparations begin months before the big event, as the older members of the hamlets are tasked with planting and growing the colorful dahlias needed to cover the larger-than-life installations. Although Bloemencorso takes place on the first Sunday in September, tents are set up around town in May and June, and from then on, members of the competing hamlets start working on their masterpieces. They discuss design ideas and building techniques, but it’s the three days before the big event that are the most stressful. Because the flowers have to be fresh, contestants can only start applying the dahlias on the Thursday before Bloemencorso. If need be, hamlets will work night and day putting needles through the flowers, and sticking them in just the right spots on the cardboard body of their mobile installations. But all the effort pays off once these mind-blowing creations make their way through the streets of Zundert leaving crowds of spectators in awe.
For the people of Zundert, Bloemencorso is very important, and they will happily give up their days off, to work on the flower floats. The hamlets taking part in the competition are like big families, where everyone knows each other and work together in harmony. To relax after a long day of working on the floats, hamlets will often go out for a beer, or organize all kinds of activities like song contests or barbecues. It might seem like making the best float is a hamlet’s ultimate goal, but it’s actually more about the social cohesion. It takes hundreds of people to create just one of these spectacular flower floats that rise taller than many of Zundert’s buildings, and considerable financial contributions, so a strong bond between hamlet members is crucial.
On the day of Bloemencorso, over 50,000 people gather in the streets of Zundert to see the dahlia-covered floats marching through. A professional and independent jury determines which installation is the most beautiful and which hamlet will be crowned winner of the competition. It’s definitely an event you don’t want to miss if you find yourself in the Netherlands in the first week of autumn.