Today, Sint Jansklooster’s flower parade is among the top three flower parades in the Netherlands. Thanks to this status, the floral spectacle has grown to become a popular and highly valued leisure event. However, it took a long time before the colourful spectacle acquired the prestigious position it has today.
The flower parade owes its existence to Queen Wilhelmina. To celebrate her birthday, the Sint Jansklooster’s Orange Committee (Christelijke Oranjevereniging) – which organises festivities for Queen’s Day and other events throughout the year) – organised a village fete each year. As part of the festivities, there was a procession of decorated farm carts and wagons and individuals in fancy dress. This annual ritual became more and more popular with the inhabitants. Many families worked enthusiastically to make the procession better and better.
The real breakthrough came in 1968 with the introduction of an idea that had blown over from Lichtenvoorde. This saw the addition of flowers to the procession. Parts of the carts and wagons were decorated with gladiolas. The trend was soon copied and in no time all of the carts and wagons were decorated with many types of flowers.
Once the allegorical procession had been transformed into a flower parade, its development seemed to know no bounds. Families were replaced by groups of friends, the farmers’ carts and wagons by homemade undercarriages, and the wide variety of flowers by home-grown and imported dahlias. The emergence of steel structures in 1980 was the most significant change, which made it possible to copy very complex shapes.
This innovation had far-reaching consequences for the flower parade. The use of a simple sketch alone was no longer sufficient. Draughtsmen and artists were approached to help give shape to the float builders’ ideas. The result was complete drawings, carefully depicting every detail. Nowadays, each float-building group has its own designer and even scale models are made.
The inhabitants thought it was great. Everyone played their part in bringing about the highlight of the year. Barns and sheds filled up in order to be able to attach the dahlias to the works of art within two days. This vast amount of support led to the creation of increasingly bigger and taller floats. As a result, the route around Sint Jansklooster and the surrounding area was shortened, leading to the route used today.
A new phenomenon was introduced in 1987. Whereas the floral floats had previously been towed, first by tractors and later by cars, it became possible to transport them under their own power. Today, it has become impossible to imagine the parade without the use of lorry and bus chassis.
There was also more and more attention for the people on and around the floral creations. Simply wearing costumes was no longer sufficient.
Large groups of performers gathered on and around the floats, in order to put on real plays. Nowadays complete scripts are written. Combined with lighting, smoke, music and sound, the resulting choreographies and musicals add an extra dimension to the flower parade.
The fact that Sint Jansklooster has risen above the level of a village procession has not gone unnoticed. Publicity in newspapers and on radio and television has prompted many people to come and have a look at the flower parade for themselves. The amazed reactions of these visitors have led to even more people travelling to the small village. This has formed the reward for the harmony and solidarity of a close-knit community.