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May Day Flower Parade

Submitted by on April 30, 2010 – 1:37 amOne Comment
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Flowers are a traditional symbol of May Day, and Spalding, England, knows how to celebrate. Its annual Flower Parade steps off at 2 p.m. Saturday (May 1, 2010) at the Springfields Arena, and makes its way through the streets to the Spalding town center. It includes traditional decorated flower floats and marching bands.

The origins of the Spalding Flower Parade stretch right back to the 1920s, when the acreage and variety of tulip bulbs grown throughout the area surrounding the Lincolnshire market town of Spalding became a feast of color resembling a gigantic rainbow spanning the countryside for weeks on end. By word of mouth the fame of the tulip fields spread, the organizers note, and the trickle of visitors grew yearly until 1935 when the Jubilee of King George V and Queen Mary coincided with the time the tulips were in flower. In celebration of the Jubilee, the local Bulb Growers’ Association encouraged its members to plant their fields with an emphasis on the patriotic trio of colors red, white and blue tulips. Suddenly Spalding and its tulip fields were thrust into the nation’s spotlight.

Fast forward a few years, and a more practical problem arose. Tulip heads have to be removed from the stems while they’re in flower to help the growth of the bulbs, which would be lifted from the fields in early summer for cleaning and grading. As the organizers said, taking the heads off the tulips naturally shortened the visual appearance of many of the tulip fields, especially when they were de-headed in their prime. What’s a tulip festival without fields of flowers!

So, to ensure that there would always be tulips on display, even if they might not be in the fields, some of the flowers removed were made available for decorative purposes. Soon, vehicles festooned with blooms turned into the first Spalding Tulip Parade in 1959. Within a few years this parade became more popular than the tulip fields themselves.

In Saturday’s parade, a single float (50 feet or so long) may be decorated with as many as 100,000 tulip heads. Many other flowers also are used.

Spalding, the largest town within the District of South Holland, is a Georgian market town along the River Welland within the South Lincolnshire Fens. For information on visiting Spalding, go online.

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