Holland Prairie shares ‘another chapter’ of town’s story

Photos by Traci Westcott/The Herald
Lilly Flamion, 8, of Duff, hugs one of the cows that was unveiled during the Holland Prairie Dedication on Dutch-American Friendship Day at the Holland Commons on Saturday. 


HOLLAND — The Town of Holland’s Dutch-American Friendship Day observances Saturday offered up fun, food and history as Holland Prairie was dedicated at Holland Commons.

Holland Prairie, made possible by a gift from Prairie Farms Dairy, is the new design element at Holland Commons, Holland’s award-winning town center at Fourth and Main streets. Its addition comes as Holland begins celebrating the 160th anniversary of the town’s founding.

The Prairie includes one Guernsey calf replica and three Holstein cows all in a pasture-like setting.

See a gallery of photos from the event here.

“The cows have come home!” said Holland resident Lee Bilderback, an educator, town historian and Holland Events Committee representative, as the festivities began.

Bilderback told those gathered that the dream when Holland Commons was planned five years ago was always “to include a tribute to our agricultural and dairy heritage unique to our corner of Indiana.”

Maggie Henke-Moser, 2, of Indianapolis, plays on the fence during the Holland Prairie Dedication on Dutch-American Friendship Day at the Holland Commons on Saturday. Maggie is the great-great-grandaughter of E.F. Caldemeyer, who was the founder of the Holland Dairy, which is now part of the Prairie Farms Dairy family of companies.

That heritage found a group of farmers and businessmen joining together to create the Holland Creamery Association in 1905. In the 1920s, the Holland Guernsey Breeders Association journeyed to Wisconsin, brought calves back to Holland and, when 14 young people had their names drawn to receive a Guernsey calf, the Guernsey Calf Club was launched. Bilderback’s grandmother, Mabel (Langebrake) Bartelt, raised her calf on the farm where Bilderback now resides.

In 1931, E.F. “Big Six” Caldemeyer established the Holland Custard and Ice Cream Co. and merged it with the Holland Creamery Association in 1943. That evolved into Holland Dairies and, in 1999, Prairie Farms — which also began as a farmer cooperative — purchased Holland Dairy.

It was apropos the Holland Prairie dedication was made on the day the town celebrates its friendship with its namesake nation — Holland the Netherlands. Although the town’s founders came from northern Germany, they had earned money for their passage working seasonal jobs in the Netherlands. Bilderback explained that town proprietor Henry Kunz named his town Holland as a way of acknowledging Holland the Netherlands for its influence in bringing settlers to southwest Dubois County.

The Netherlands and the United States have a friendship that goes back to November 1776, a scant four months after the United States declared its independence from Great Britain. As Bilderback explained, the small American warship Andrew Doria sailed into the harbor of the Dutch island of Saint Eustatius in the West Indies and the governor of the island ordered that his fort’s cannons be fired in a friendly salute that was the first ever given by a foreign power to the flag of the United States.

In 2016, a representative of the Royal Dutch Government, Heleen Bakker, attended the Holland Commons dedication. Bilderback says that resulted in official ties of friendship “between the Dutch Nation and our Holland, Indiana.”

Lee Bilderback, Holland town historian and events committee representative, speaks during the Holland Prairie Dedication on Dutch-American Friendship Day at the Holland Commons on Saturday. 

Bilderback indicated Bakker told friends in Holland, Indiana, that, to celebrate The Hague hosting the United States’ first embassy in the world, members of the Dutch embassy staff give tulips to people walking in Washington D.C. on Dutch-American Friendship Day.

With that in mind, on Friday, bouquets of fresh tulips were delivered to several Holland-area citizens and businesses to acknowledge them for service to the community.

“We hope to make this a meaningful tradition in Holland,” Bilderback said. And Holland Prairie will be a “tribute to share another chapter of our story to the world,” he added.

Saturday’s dedication of Holland Prairie was preceded by kids games and followed by a lunch at Town Hall. Bilderback thanked the Holland Town Council “for supporting this project from the beginning” and recognized Holland Events Committee members Bev Schmutzler, Sharon Springston, Tammy Wertman and Elaine Hunefeld for making the entire Dutch-American Friendship Day observances happen. Schmutzler, the granddaughter of E.F. Caldemeyer, presented a thank-you plaque to Prairie Farms General Manager of Operations David Phaup.

Since its completion in 2016, the Holland Commons has hosted town gatherings, music events and family entertainment and welcomed visitors from as far away as Germany and the Netherlands. It was the recipient of the Indiana Historical Society’s 2018 Outstanding Collaborative Project Award.

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