ALBANY, NY – There's an unmistakable sense of pride amongst Albany's Dutch Community.
"The last name is ‘Schermerhorn,’ that's a good Dutch name," said James Schermerhorn, a member of the Dutch Settlers Society of Albany. "Our family came here in 1637. The folks that you see here, many of their ancestors came here in the early 1600s."
"I'm a descendant of both the Wimples and Vandusens on my mother and father's sides, so I'm Dutch," fellow member Joan Burns said.
In full garb, members of the group embraced their cultural spirit Friday at the scrubbing of State Street, an event that celebrates the Capital City's roots as America's oldest Dutch settlement.
"The clothes we wear her actually from 1800s provincial Netherlands but it's what people most associate with the Dutch,” Schermerhorn said. “The clogs, the tulips, the hats."
Conducted by local Boy Scouts and members of this year's court, the scrubbing ritual also marks the official start of this weekend's 68th Tulip Festival.
"This is a very special day for all of us,” Burns said. “I've done it for several years."
"That's what Albany was founded on, Dutch roots go deep,” said Marcus Pryor, who’s marking his 13th and final year as Tulip Festival Chairman. “I think it's important for us to always remember one of the main reasons why Albany is as great as it is."
The more than 100,000 flowers in full bloom at Washington Park are always the main draw of the festival, but descendants of Albany's first European settlers view it as an opportunity to teach the next generation about their hometown's heritage.
"When you can trace your family, our family name, back into folks that I actually walked right here almost 400 years ago, it gives you a little bit of a tickle," Schermerhorn said.