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May 7, 2004

Flower children

From: Holland Sentinel, MI - May 7, 2004

7,000 students from more than 40 schools march in Kinderparade


Rachel Bylsma could barely see over her bass drum Thursday afternoon as she made her way down Eighth Street with the Holland sixth grade band in Tulip Time's Kinderparade.

As important as the marching is, Bylsma wasn't focused on her feet. Instead, she watched the fingers of the woman marching next to her, counting: One and two and three and four, over and over again.

Bylsma, 13, is deaf, and so she relies on the fingers of her school interpreter, Deni Hoogland, to keep the beat.

"She has two older brothers and an older sister who were all in band," said Linda Bylsma, Rachel's mother. "She kept saying, 'When's my turn?' I'd say, 'Oh honey, you can carry a flag, you can carry the banner,' but that wasn't cutting it -- she wanted to be in band."

Thursday was only Bylsma's second time marching, as the sixth grade band stepped off to open the Kinderparade. Despite predictions of rain, an estimated 30,000 people showed up for the event, and the rain held off until 4 p.m.

More than 40 area schools -- a total of 7,000 students -- turned out to march, Rollerblade and play their way from Eighth Street and Columbia Avenue to Kollen Park.

Breaking from the traditional marching band mode, West Ottawa eighth grade band members switched places in formation as they made their way, playing "Crazy Train" by Ozzy Osbourne.

"Everybody who's got the main melody switches places so they can be heard," said Heide Kenjorski, the band director, as she watched the saxophones and trombones make way for the clarinets on the outside ranks of the band.

Joining the parade in an unofficial capacity were a few West Ottawa High School students who represented themselves as members of the American Pirate Association.

Waving swords, sporting eye patches and snarling the traditional pirate "Arrrggh" at people along the parade route, the group of perhaps 20 students jumped into the procession behind a float led by a student who refused to reveal his name.

"We're just joining in here to have fun with everyone," he said mid-parade. "The APA, it's sweeping the nation, I tell you."

Officers of the Holland Police Department were waiting near Pine Avenue to remove the unauthorized group from the parade.

In a group from Corpus Christi Catholic School, a few fifth-graders captured the coveted roles of cops and robbers, playing in bobby hats and striped uniforms among marching children carrying large cardboard diamonds.

"The robbers capture the diamonds the fourth-graders are carrying, then the cops have to catch the robbers with the diamonds," said Joe Amante, a fourth-grade teacher. "That's the part all the kids want."

Contact Amanda Hulce at or (616) 546-4258.

© Copyright 2003 The Holland Sentinel