The five-day Founder's Festival celebrating the bicentennial of the birth of the Rev. Albertus C. Van Raalte will begin with a party for the entire community complete with cake.

Running Friday-Tuesday, Oct. 21-25, the festival has been scheduled in honor of the October 1811 birth of Van Raalte, who founded Holland in 1847. Multiple events have been scheduled in Holland as well as in neighboring communities, including not only the opening reception but concerts, films and exhibitions; a play written just for the bicentennial; puppet shows, storytelling and a "Klompen Derby" - miniature wooden show car races; and the U.S. portion of an international conference that will continue in the Netherlands the following month.

All of the events are open to the public. Admission to most is free. At many events, children will be given souvenir balloons bearing the logo of the bicentennial.

The opening celebration will take place on Friday, Oct. 21, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Holland Area Arts Council. The evening will include a birthday cake provided by de Boer Bakkerij as well as arts and crafts for families, including a decorating session for those who have purchased "Klompen Derby" kits. Admission is free.

Several activities have been scheduled throughout the day on Saturday, Oct. 22.

° Herrick District Library will host storytelling at 10 a.m. and then performances of the Van Raalte-themed play "Vision of a New Life" by Max Bush at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. Birthday cake will also be served. Admission is free.

° Hope College will show short Dutch films featuring a variety of topics at 10 a.m., noon and 2 p.m. in Winants Auditorium of Graves Hall. Admission is free.

° The Holland Armory will host games for families from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and a "Klompen Derby"--wooden shoe car races--at 2 p.m. Birthday cake will also be served. Admission to the events is free. Kits for the derby are available for assembly and decorating at the arts council in advance for $5 each while supplies last.

° The Holland Area Arts Council will feature puppet performances at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. Admission is free.

° The activities on Saturday, Oct. 22, will conclude with a concert by the Holland Chorale at 7:30 p.m. at the West Ottawa Performing Arts Center. The program, "Expressions of the Soul," will include music from the Netherlands and by Dutch composers, including folk songs, Psalm settings, liturgical music and secular works. Ticket prices include, for general seating, $14 for regular admission, $12 for senior citizens and free for students. More information is available at or by calling (616) 494-0256.

On Sunday, Oct. 23, Pillar Church will hold a community worship service at 3 p.m. The service will be led by Van Raalte's successors, Rev. Chris De Vos of Pillar Church (Christian Reformed) and Rev. Dan Gillett of First Reformed Church. Admission is free.

Hope will host the international conference "Albertus C. Van Raalte: Leader and Liaison" on Monday and Tuesday, Oct. 24 and 25, in Winants Auditorium of Graves Hall. Organized by the college's A.C. Van Raalte Institute, the conference will feature lectures by scholars from the United States as well as the Netherlands. The presentations will begin on Monday, Oct. 24, at 9 a.m. with the keynote address "Off the Pulpit: Van Raalte as Community Leader" by Dr. Robert Swierenga, who is the A.C. Van Raalte Research Professor and adjunct professor of history at Hope, and will continue with a dozen more presentations through 3:15 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 25. The conference is being underwritten by several individual donors and foundations, including the Netherland-American Foundation. Admission is free to the lectures and the public is invited to drop in for any or all of them, although preregistration will assure the availability of seating. More information about the conference, which will continue in Ommen, Overijssel, the Netherlands on Nov. 3-4, may be obtained online at or by calling (616) 395-7678.

The activities on Tuesday, Oct. 25, will conclude with an organ concert at 7:30 p.m. in Dimnent Memorial Chapel by Dr. Huw R. Lewis and Linda Kay Strouf of the Hope music faculty. Lewis, who is a professor of music and college organist, and Strouf, who is an adjunct assistant professor of music, will be presenting a program that they previously performed in Ommen in the Netherlands in May. Admission is free.

Also in conjunction with the bicentennial celebration, multiple organizations are featuring exhibitions from September to November on Van Raalte and his enduring legacy, including the Holland Museum; the Theil Research Center and the Van Wylen Library at Hope; Heritage Hall at Calvin College in Grand Rapids; Herrick District Library; Graafschap Christian Reformed Church; Hope Church; Pillar Church; Third Reformed Church; Western Theological Seminary library; and the Dekker Huis Museum in Zeeland.

In addition, the Saturday, Oct. 1, concert by the Holland Symphony Orchestra anticipated the festival with a program that included van Anrooij's "Piet Hein Rhapsodie." Also in advance of the festival, the Holland Museum will be featuring the premiere of the play "Vision of a New Life" by Max Bush on Van Raalte's birthday, Oct. 17, at 7 p.m. and 8:30 p.m.

Albertus C. Van Raalte was born in 1811 in the village of Wanneperveen in Overijssel, the Netherlands, the son of a pastor in the Dutch Reformed Church. Following his own education in theology, at LeidenUniversity, Van Raalte became a leader in the newly formed SeparatistChurch, holding four pastorates between 1836 and 1846.

In the fall of 1846, he and his small group of followers left the Netherlands and sailed for America. They traveled via New York and Albany, and wintered in Detroit before reaching West Michigan and establishing the "Holland Kolonie" in February 1847. The pioneers were soon joined by many other Dutch immigrants, who not only settled in Holland itself but founded additional communities in the region as well as throughout the Midwest.

Van Raalte continued to work on the colony's behalf for nearly three decades. He died on Nov. 7, 1876, at age 65.

The Van Raalte Bicentennial Community Celebration is being organized by the Dutch Heritage Coordinating Council, whose mission is to provide a forum to further the preservation and promotion of Dutch heritage in the Greater Holland/Zeeland Area. Funding sponsors are Hope College, the City of Holland and the Community Foundation of the Holland/Zeeland Area; participating organizations are the Herrick District Library, the Holland Area Arts Council, the Holland Historical Trust, Tulip Time Festival, the Holland Convention and Visitors Bureau and Dutch Village. Additional information about the celebration is available online at