ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — The 2023 Tulip Festival is officially underway. The annual Street Scrubbing ceremony took place Friday afternoon on Lodge and State Streets. It’s a traditional Dutch ceremony that has served as the official start of TulipFest for the past 75 years.

The city welcomed special guests this year. The mayor of Nikmegen, Albany’s sister city in the Netherlands, visited Albany for the first time. Albany sent a ship of humanitarian aid to the city, which was destroyed during World War II. The mayor said the donations were a key turning point.

“And one ship doesn’t bring your complete future,” Mayor Hubert Bruls said. “One ship doesn’t change the world in itself. But it changed the mood. It helped change the mood to get it to redevelopment and step forward.”

The queen of the Netherlands sent a shipment of tulips as a thank you, which helped launch the Tulip Festival.