Traditions in Haarlem’s Zaanenpark are in danger of disappearing due to a shortage of volunteers

Events organized in Haarlem’s Zaanenpark are under pressure due to a lack of volunteers. Tonight there is a special drop-in evening at Bison Bowling in Haarlem-Noord, which should ensure a new influx of volunteers. If this does not work, parties such as Christmas caroling or the summer festival may soon be a thing of the past.

Visitors to Summer in the Zaanen – Photo: Marcelle de Hart

A month ago, organizer Michiel Groothuis made the decision: no Christmas singing in the Zaanenpark this time. The park remained empty, quiet and dark on Christmas Eve. No singing local residents with a glass of mulled wine in their hand. The cause: too few volunteers to properly organize the event.

Michiel is one of the founders of the event. “It was 18 years ago,” he remembers. “I cycled to De Hout to participate in the Christmas caroling that was organized there at the time. Suddenly I thought: why don’t we organize this in Haarlem-Noord? There is so little happening in our part of town.”

1,500 to 2,500 visitors

The following year, Christmas singing in the Zaanenpark became a reality. Michiel and some other local residents had a taste for it. Six months later they set up a festival in the same place. Summer in the Zaanen grew into an event that attracts 1,500 to 2,500 people from the neighborhood and further afield.

“Visitors do not realize that the summer festival is organized by volunteers”

Michiel Groothuis, organizer

Now the summer festival is under pressure. Michiel: “I moved last year and no longer live in the area. I certainly want to continue to get involved, but I think it would be better if someone else took the lead.”

Tonight there is a special walk-in evening at Bison Bowling in Haarlem-Noord. This must lead to a new core of volunteers, otherwise the festival cannot go ahead. “That’s a bit bitter,” Michiel notes. “The festival now came across so professionally that many visitors do not realize that it is organized by volunteers.”

The Post House

Michiel can name plenty of reasons why it is difficult to find volunteers for these types of events. Some people leave the neighborhood, others don’t have enough time. He also blames it on an accident in the neighborhood: the burning down of the Posthuis in 2020.

“The Posthuis functioned as a community center. You bumped into each other and had a chat. The building also served as storage for material for the festival. That way people were more likely to join in and pick something up.”

The Post House is now being rebuilt, by volunteers from the neighborhood. Michiel does not think that this project is the cause of a lack of volunteers for the festival. “When volunteering, it is especially important that you really enjoy it. After all, you spend your free time on it. Building something together is a different interest than organizing a festival together.”

Michiel is hopeful. “I have already received several registrations for the walk-in evening. I have faith in it. And the nice thing is: a new designer has recently signed up for a festival. That’s a guy in his late twenties, early thirties. He signed up because he used to enjoy the festival so much as a child.”