Pella Historical Society sees estimated $250,000 Tulip Time loss

PELLA — Pella Historical Society and Museums lost a lot of money with the cancellation of Tulip Time. Now the organization is trying to keep its head above water.

PHSM Executive Director Val Van Kooten said the museum lost about $250,000 in revenue with the cancellation of Tulip Time, in addition to being closed during the months of April and May.

“Not having Tulip Time and then being closed the two busiest months of the year, April and May, was kind of a double-whammy,” says Van Kooten.

This year’s revenue losses coincided with the beginning of PHSM’s FY 2020 budget. That allowed Van Kooten to cut the budget without having to reverse course in the middle of a fiscal year. Last year, PHSM’s total Tulip Time net revenue was $150-160,000. According to Van Kooten, $140,000 is the average.

“Last year was a good year,” says Van Kooten. “We usually bring in another $100,000 in those first couple months in admissions, but with the Scholte House, the Mill and Village being closed those first two months, it was hard.”

Van Kooten says she believes the community will see a trickle-down effect throughout the year due to the cancellation and closures, which could continue into 2021.

“I think this made people realize, ‘Hey, this is what Tulip Time does for us, for our group, for our church, for our Boy Scout club, for our store,’” says Van Kooten. “This is what life without Tulip Time would be like, and I don’t think anybody liked what they saw.”

Post-Tulip Time is typically slow for PHSM, but this year, Van Kooten is busy applying for local, state and federal grants. The museum has also ramped up its social media presence.

“There is a silver lining in that we were forced to look at other revenue streams, and one of those was we finally got our gift shop online,” says Van Kooten. “We’ve been wanting to do that for years and have never had the time to do it. It’s been a huge financial help.”

PHSM also decided to sell their dug-up tulip bulbs, which was a huge fundraiser for the museum. Van Kooten says they will likely continue the fundraiser in the coming years.

“It was good in that it forced us to look at maybe cutting some fat in some areas and look at where we could boost other areas,” says Van Kooten. “We can’t survive depending on Tulip Time as our major revenue.”

According to Van Kooten, Tulip Time makes up about 30 percent of their yearly revenue. Now, they are down to 20 percent.

“We’re working really hard to make other revenue streams, so if we have another year where it snows, rains, or God forbid another year like this year where we don’t have it all, we’ve got other ways to keep us going,” says Van Kooten.

As a nonprofit, the museum also survives on memberships, monetary donations and volunteers.

“I don’t think people, especially in Pella, can look at us anymore as something that’s always going to be there, I don’t have to mess with it, they don’t need me, Tulip Time will always be here because I don’t think that’s necessarily a given,” says Van Kooten. “I think if people want Tulip Time to continue, they want Pella Historical to continue, we need memberships, we need donations, and we always need donations of peoples’ time.”

Emily Hawk can be reached at 641-672-2581 or by email at ehawk@oskyherald.com.

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