‘As chairman you must love people’

Culture

LICHENVOORDE – It is of course the millions of dahlias that make the flower parade in Lichtenvoorde a blooming spectacle for the public. Yet the second largest parade in the world is mainly about people. Outgoing chairman Herman ter Haar (67) and his successor Thijs Kroezen (40) completely agree on this. After the next edition, on Sunday 11 September, after almost fifteen years, Herman leaves the helm to someone who – like him – is infected with the corso virus for life. Having a conversation about progress with an organization that is ‘going against the times’.

By Gerwin Nijkamp

The similarities between the two chairmen are clearly greater than the differences. Two down-to-earth men who know what they want and can explain it in the right tone in plain language. Friendly, approachable and welcoming when possible, but also bang your fist on the table when necessary. Leadership qualities which, according to both gentlemen, are necessary to ensure that everyone can work together.

Corso virus
In addition to being able to lead, a chairman must of course also have a passion for the parade. Like Herman, Thijs was infected with corsovirus ‘outside the house’. While Herman had to throw himself into the Corso culture to spend the summer months with his great love Marian, Thijs fell for dahlias at the beginning of his teenage years. Not because of love, but because of his friendship with Herman’s son and his wife Marian. “As a child, the flower parade wasn’t really alive with me,” he admits. “But Glenn reeled me in.” First with the Rensing-Mellink group and later with Hooiland, where he joined the board in his twenties.

On a daily basis, Thijs is a board member of the Ulft company Mombarg Beton, and he owes that to the parade, he is convinced. It shaped him. “On the board of Hooiland I was given responsibility, and I was given the opportunity to take responsibility myself, but in a safe environment. And I learned to work with all kinds of people. That’s what I still love the most.”

In the summer of 2019, he joined the board of Stichting Bloemencorso Lichtenvoorde. Herman personally called to ask him to become his successor. “This is the greatest honor that can be attributed to me,” he told his girlfriend immediately after that conversation. The outgoing corso chairman had been targeting him for a long time. “Thijs is very punctual and can structure well. He communicates clearly, is good with people and can also take action if necessary. In addition, he has a big parade heart.”

‘Hardest decision ever’
Already a year after joining, Thijs and his board colleagues are faced with the most difficult decision ever. After the outbreak of the corona pandemic, it had to be decided in March, very early in the season, that the parade would be canceled because there was too much uncertainty. All scripts could be shelved, there were no more scenarios that would make it likely that the dahlia giants would march through the streets of Keistaden.

Very unfortunate, but it gave everyone the chance to take some distance, Thijs looks back. Both the organization and car builders. “It was fun to reinvent the parade together with all the groups. Because they didn’t have to build cars, there was more room for input from them.” Finally, during the parade weekend, visitors could walk a Dahlia Art Object Route along colorful dahlia creations.

At the same time, Thijs could use the time to prepare a new mission and vision with all the input from the parade groups. “Not much needs to be done about the structure of the organisation”, he says immediately. “Herman has already done very well when he took over in 2004.” Nevertheless, Blomsterparaden is definitely ready for a new plan, believes the predecessor. Even if it’s just to tighten up.

Day in Lichtenvoorde
One of the spearheads for the coming years is to offer the visitor even more experience. Although the parade gets bigger and more spectacular every year, there is still a somewhat old-fashioned image to the event. “That’s why it’s no longer enough to see the parade in the afternoon, and we have to spend a whole day in Lichtenvoorde, from morning to evening under the tiles,” explains Thijs. This includes a cup of coffee in the morning and entertainment for the children. In fact, the parade should already start for the visitor when they drive from the highway towards Lichtenvoorde and at the end of the day they have to go home completely overwhelmed.

To get inspiration, Thijs, like Herman, lives his eyes and ears everywhere. “I was recently at the zoo with my family. I watch very carefully how we are received there at the box office.”

Herman jumps up. “That’s what you have to do as chairman, never hang back. For example, when I attend a major event, I always look at how they handle the traffic flows there.”

Human size
Of course, even if a president runs ahead of the troops, he can never do everything himself. “The biggest pitfall for Thijs is that he does the same thing as me”, referring to his involvement in almost every part of the organisation. Everyone who has anything to do with the parade knows Herman ter Haar and the chairman knows everyone who has anything to do with the parade or who could do something for it.

“I found it most instructive to see how Herman interacts with people,” says Thijs. Over the years, the outgoing chairman has tried to be aware of everyone’s joys and sorrows and take them into account. “As chairman you have to love people”, says Herman. “You also get a lot back. Furthermore, a good network is extremely important at an event like the flower parade. I never saw it as a burden and always loved doing it.”

That Herman is valued as chairman and as a person by the parade community became tangible last year in the form of a royal award. On the eve of the Corso Kunstobjecten route, Herman was met in ‘t Zwaantje, of course without realizing it. His great love Marian installed him there with the decorations that belong to the title of Knight of the Orange-Nassau Order. Mayor Annette Bronsvoort and Thijs spoke to him in a full house. “That tape was the highlight for me personally in all those years.”

It still makes him emotional. “Yes, it means a lot to me.” He falls silent for a moment. “All the small and big moments that we have experienced together… The Corso culture is so beautiful.”

For a few more weeks, Herman will be the face of that community as chairman. During that period he will enjoy and probably swallow a few times at the emotional moments, but he stops with peace of mind. “There is now a professional organization that never stands still, that will always keep learning and will never hang back”, it says resolutely. And of course a new chairman who enjoys all his trust. “I can go and weed in the corso garden”, he smiles.

Construction sites are the parade’s Achilles heel

Although Herman will undoubtedly be found in the corso garden more often after the handover of the hammer, he will still be engaged in a number of primary matters. Such as finding construction sites for the parade groups, a hot topic in the parade community. “It is already difficult now and it will remain so in the future,” predicts the outgoing chairman. Most parade groups don’t seem to have to worry about the influx of new members. Car building is also very popular among the young, partly because of the schools’ involvement in the parade. “The biggest threat to a parade group’s survival is losing the construction site,” says Herman. “At the moment there are seven groups in need. It is hoped that the plan for a construction site at the treatment plant on Boschlaan can come true.”

According to his successor, Herman is the man to guide this difficult case and asked him to continue with it. The survival of parade culture in Lichtenvoorde is at stake, so people’s knowledge and tact are indispensable here. “You have to understand the neighborhood’s objections. Only then can a solution be found”, says Herman. “If that solution is found, it remains a matter of complying with agreements and acting with integrity. That way you maintain support for the parade in the community.”

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