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Whitmer delivers keynote at Tulip Time luncheon

By Arpan Lobo/The Holland Sentinel • May 9, 2019 at 7:00 AM

HOLLAND — For the first time as governor, Gretchen Whitmer visited Holland for the inaugural luncheon at the 90th Tulip Time festival. She spoke about Michigan's strength in diversity, as well as how Tulip Time and Holland's Dutch heritage is an embodiment of that strength.

The luncheon took place at the DeVos Fieldhouse on Wednesday. State leaders such as Whitmer, Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist, and various state representatives and senators were in attendance.

Following an introduction by Hope College interim President Dennis Voskuil, Holland Mayor Nancy DeBoer, Tulip Time Executive Director Gwen Auwerda and Huntington Bank West Michigan President John Irwin all gave remarks. Whitmer's address concluded the event.

"This is certainly something special that happens here in Holland," Whitmer said. "Five hundred thousand people are going to come here over the course of this festival. It’s something really to be proud of. It’s something I am grateful here to acknowledge and support."

The governor told guests that the festival is a celebration of what makes Michigan a unique part of the country.

"This is a celebration of the incredible diversity that built the state of Michigan — that built the middle class in America, frankly,” she said. “A place where people came to from around the world, whether they were of Dutch descent, people who made West Michigan their home.

"The greatest thing about the state of Michigan are the people who call this state home, and their stories and their backgrounds that make up this state,” she added. “It is a strength, and is something to be incredibly proud of, and I am incredibly grateful to be here with all of you, acknowledging these facts."

Whitmer, who grew up in nearby Grand Rapids, told the audience she has fond memories of attending Tulip Time with her family while growing up, as well as her own children.

"This is pure Michigan right here,” she said. “This is what it’s all about."

Whitmer received a traditional "jiccle," or Dutch quilt, from DeBoer as a sign of welcoming to the Holland community.

DeBoer touted the economic impact that Tulip Time brings to the region, citing a 2018 Hope College study that states more than $48 million is brought to local businesses annually because of the festival.

Following the luncheon, the governor fielded questions from reporters. She said her proposed fiscal year 2020 budget — which includes a highly contested gas tax bump — is her administration's biggest priority.

"The first and foremost thing we have to get done is the budget," Whitmer said. "Now, if a no-fault solution rolls very concurrently and maybe gets signed shortly after the budget gets done, that’s something I am open to. But the budget is the first priority."

Upon leaving the DeVos Fieldhouse, the governor led the Volksparade through downtown Holland on Wednesday afternoon.

See the related video: “Whitmer at Tulip Time.”

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