Dahlias as art
September 22, 2016 1:35 PM   Subscribe

On the first Sunday of September every year since 1936, Zundert—a small town in the Netherlands that is the birthplace of Vincent van Gogh—puts on the world’s largest volunteer-run flower parade, with a raft of over-the-top floats made from local dahlias. This year's floats did not disappoint.

There is a video towards the end of the Slate article if you want to see the floats moving along the parade route.

The parade itself takes place on the first Sunday of September, but the members of the hamlets work on their floats all summer. The tents are put up in May or June and from then on the volunteers put all their effort in creating the giant artworks. The last three days before the actual parade are the most stressful. Because the flowers have to be fresh, the hamlets can only start applying the dahlias on the floats on the Thursday before the parade. Volunteers prepare the dahlias by putting pins through the flowers so they can be applied to the float.

posted by cynical pinnacle (14 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Kinda puts that zeta chi mu homecoming float to shame, don't it?
posted by RolandOfEld at 1:39 PM on September 22, 2016

Wow, those are astounding! Having worked on a fake flower float (for a homecoming parade, in a bizarro twist of the nerds leading the high school float effort - once, and then we knew better), I can say it's a lot of work to make a Really Crappy fake flower float. I can't imagine the artistry and work that goes into these (and the dahlias! So Many!).
posted by ldthomps at 1:56 PM on September 22, 2016

These are spectacular! I particularly like the underwater dogs one.
posted by Azara at 3:04 PM on September 22, 2016 [2 favorites]

Brilliant bending of their medium - including the shout out to Theo Jansen's strandbeests previously.
posted by progosk at 3:42 PM on September 22, 2016

These are stunning! A nice burst of cheer. I love dahlias a lot--the annual display at my state fair is one of my favorite things about the entire fair. Seeing this parade in person just made my to-do list. Thank you for sharing, cynical.
posted by weeyin at 3:44 PM on September 22, 2016

I volunteered once to put flowers on a Rose Parade float (I was living in Torrance, one of the L.A. communities to make their own float) and most of what I got from it were two sets of sticky fingers that took forever to wash off. But yes, Dahlias > Roses (and in the Rose Parade floats allowed "all kinds of vegetable matter", including seeds, grass and bark).
posted by oneswellfoop at 4:14 PM on September 22, 2016

Mmm, I remember this from last year, sadly because I know someone named Dahlia who died at about this time last year. I remember thinking that the floats were a fitting tribute to her.
posted by chainsofreedom at 4:20 PM on September 22, 2016 [1 favorite]

This is what peace looks like. I love the Dutch, and their ongoing investment in life.
posted by Oyéah at 5:08 PM on September 22, 2016 [2 favorites]

This is lovely, thanks.
posted by SecretAgentSockpuppet at 6:14 PM on September 22, 2016

Blows New Orleans Mardi Gras floats out of the water. But then, I always found the floats and parades pretty underwhelming and samey, to be honest. (The ones for the big Krewes, I mean; the more homemade ones are often really fun.)

These though are lovely, and it looks like the float-makers have gone past mere mastery of the flower-based-rolling-sculpture form and have gotten really playful with it. I particularly liked the one where they used fields of flowers all of one color to give a convincing impression of low-polygon-count CGI. It's not necessarily the prettiest float in the gallery (that would be the lion float) but it does a great job of showing what the builders are capable of.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 6:57 PM on September 22, 2016

And who would have thought of making a float of electrical transmission towers out of flowers.
posted by tommyD at 7:53 PM on September 22, 2016

I will never forget the dahlia obsessive's garden near me in when I lived in Kings Heath in Birmingham, England. An entire garden of just hundreds and hundreds of dahlias. It was spectacular in its obsessive imbalance relative to all the other gardens around it. It just said "I LIKE DAHLIAS AND NOTHING BUT". It wasn't as pretty or nice as the other more balanced gardens around it but it was so pure and unadulterated that you had to kind of admire it.

It was zero fucks hundred dahlias gardening.
posted by srboisvert at 8:36 PM on September 22, 2016 [1 favorite]

And who would have thought of making a float of electrical transmission towers

I imagine you're referring to this one - that's the Th. Jansen homage I mentioned.
posted by progosk at 10:25 PM on September 22, 2016

This is so great. The 2015 parade video from the link at the end of the 2016 page really gives one a better idea of the floats in 3D. I particularly love the float in the shape of a giant hedgehog made of 'colored pencils' made of flowers. The flowers must be so meticulously sorted by color.
posted by of strange foe at 1:54 PM on September 23, 2016

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