As tulip season arrives in the Netherlands, a multitude of events sprout up to celebrate the country's famous bulb flowers, not least the popular bloemencorso's - Dutch for 'flower (bloemen) parade (corso)'. The parades feature a procession of floats (and, where possible, boats) bedecked with fresh-cut flowers; visitors have only a short window of oppportunity to admire the intricate floats before the flowers wilt, and the turn-out for these remarkable parades can reach into the hundreds of thousands. In 2013, seven Dutch flower parades and five Belgian ones even united to push for the events' inclusion in UNESCO's register of Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity.
While there are dozens of bloemencorso's in the Low Countries, one stands out as the Bloemencorso: that is, the Bloemencorso van de Bollenstreek, the flower parade whose route traverses the Bollenstreek - the parts of North and South Holland where most of the country's flower bulbs are cultivated - every April. The Bloemencorso van de Bollenstreek debuted in 1947, in the festive spirit that followed the end of World War II; one participant, an amaryllis farmer, had the idea to craft a float into the shape of a walrus. Since then, dozens more floats and smaller cars have joined the procession, and the event now attracts a million spectators annually. This flower parade is also comprised of fantastic floats, united under a common theme; 2013's theme, for example, was "Bon Appetit", and flowers were sculpted into still lifes of food, sometimes linked to the individual float's sponsor. The main event is a 25-mile (40 km) procession from Noordwijk (South Holland) to Haarlem (North Holland) that lasts a full day, but a mini-parade of just a few hours and other flower-related events are held in the days before and after the chief parade. Special children's parades, concerts, street theater, culinary events, markets and other performances and events keep flower-watchers busy before and after the parade passes by.
Other major flower parades in the Netherlands include:
- Corso Zundert, a volunteer-driven parade that takes place annually on the first Sunday of September in the town of Zundert, Noord Brabant (9 mi/15 km southwest of Breda).
- Bloemencorso Lichtenvoorde, the oldest flower parade in the Netherlands; since its debut in 1898, on the occasion of Queen Wilhelmina's coronation, it's been reprised annually in the town of Licthenvoorde, Gelderland province.
- Aalsmeers Bloemencorso, which, after a three-year hiatus, returned with much fanfare in 2011, and since then been held every September in the town of Aalsmeer, North Holland.
A more complete list of flower parades in the Low Countries (chiefly the Netherlands) and France can be found at optochtenkalender.nl (Dutch only).