Dutch royal couple feels connection to West Michigan on visit
It was a royal day in Grand Rapids as King Willem-Alexander and Queen Maxima of the Netherlands paid the city a visit.
Several groups from the Holland area participated in the regal celebration. People traveled from across Michigan and from further away to catch sight of the royal couple Tuesday, June 2. School groups decked out in orange made for a sea of the Dutch national color at one event.
Hennie Elsinga, who emigrated from the Netherlands to Holland, Mich., with her family when she was 4 and a half years old, was among those cheering Holland Mayor Kurt Dykstra.
“It’s just great opportunity,” she said. “I like to keep that connection going.”
Her parents saw Queen Beatrix in Kollen Park decades ago, and she came with her two sisters to Grand Rapids to see the king and queen Tuesday.
The king and queen were greeted at Gerald R. Ford International Airport by Gov. Rick Snyder, Lt. Gov. Brian Calley and other dignitaries. Children presented the royal couple with Holland shirts for their three daughters.
The whirlwind, three-day tour of the United States was the royal couple’s first official visit, and the first visit from Dutch royalty since the king’s mother, Queen Beatrix, visited Holland decades ago. They started their U.S. visit in Washington, D.C., where they met with President Barack Obama and Rep. Bill Huizenga, R-Zeeland, who is co-chairman of the Dutch Caucus. They discussed economic and cultural ties between the two areas, Huizenga said.
The king and queen visited Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park where they were met by members of the Van Andel and Meijer families. There, the king spoke to an invite-only group.
The state of Michigan is six times the size of the Netherlands.
“The Netherlands is only a dot on the map, but it punches above its weight,” the king said.
Holland Mayor Kurt Dykstra was master of ceremonies and welcomed the king and queen in Dutch before jokingly promising not to further butcher their native language.
“There are many in the room who have very fond memories of your mother in West Michigan,” Dykstra told the king.
Snyder said West Michigan and its values of citizenship, volunteerism, giving back and plain generosity are an example for the rest of the country and the world.
“It’s not just about commerce, business. It’s about caring for other people,” Snyder said, specifically pointing out medical advances at Van Andel Institute and Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital.
The royal couple would later tour Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital and Van Andel Institute.