With every step and stitch volunteers bring Fulton’s Dutch Days to life

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Local 4 News is kicking off this year’s Community Spotlight with Fulton, Illinois. 

The small city has spent months preparing for their biggest event of the year, the 45th annual Dutch Days festival. 

Each year visitors from all over stop by Fulton to enjoy traditional Dutch food, dancing, music and much more. 

There’s also live performances of traditional Dutch dances, complete with authentic costumes.

For months, Sheila Huizenga spends two night a week in the gym of River Bend Middle School in Fulton. 

“So this is my tenth year of teaching…When I was little I always danced and then after I started having kids then I danced with my daughters,” said Huizenga.

Today, she’s passing down the tradition to a room full of kids of all ages. Every week, they partner up and practice their steps to prepare for the live show. 

Ella Holmbo has been dancing with her friend Kadence Kreider for seven years now.

“It’s fun because then you’re unique and you’re different and you’re not the same as everybody else playing travel softball and soccer or something like that,” she said.

Holmbo says this might be her last year dancing before she switches over to teaching.

Suzanne VerHoeven was one of just two adults at this dance lesson, and says she became immersed in the culture when she moved to Fulton several years ago. 

“I borrow a costume and I think it’s really beautiful and I love to put it on,” she said.

While Huzienga helps the dancers learn their steps, Trudy Feldt is off to the side fitting kids for their handmade costumes. 

Feldt has been making Dutch costumes since 1997.

“We take pride in the costumes and the fact that it’s a Dutch heritage affair,” she said.

Her living room is covered in fabrics of every shape, size and color. These days, she knows most of the designs from memory or old sketches.  

“They say ‘Oh you’re the costume lady! You’re the Dutch dancing lady!’ or something,” said Feldt. 

Over the years, Feldt has made costumes for dozens of kids, piecing them together with whatever she can find. 

“This is an upside down woven basket,” she said as she flipped one of the hats upside down. 

Across town Kathy Bielema is also busy making elaborate costumes including her own for this year’s festival. 

“I would say I probably average about four a year,” she said. “So that’s quite a few over 45 years!”

They’re made of everything from old purses to scraps found at second-hand stores. 

“Putting it together can get tedious but the creative part, the search for the materials is what’s so much fun,” said Bielema.

And with determination and a lot of heart, these volunteers bring this small town’s story to the stage.

Don’t forget to join Local 4 News during our live broadcast at Dutch Days this Friday, May 3. 

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