GRAND RAPIDS, Michigan (AP) — The king of the Netherlands and his wife helped plant a tree and paid tribute to western Michigan's Dutch heritage during a visit to the state Tuesday as part of a multi-day U.S. trip.
King Willem-Alexander and Queen Maxima landed in Grand Rapids on Tuesday morning, where children from Ada Christian School sang a Dutch-language song to them.
"I think we did pretty well," student Ben Plantinga, 12, told The Grand Rapids Press.
The royal couple wielded shovels during a tree planting at Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park and participated in events at Helen DeVos Children's Hospital and the Van Andel Research Institute. They lunched with Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder and visited with local leaders.
"How marvelous it is to meet so many Dutch people with Dutch roots," the king said, then gave a quick lesson in the proper Dutch pronunciation of names such as Meijer, DeVos and Van Andel.
He also commented on the role of the first Dutch settlement in western Michigan two centuries ago.
"The seeds planted here still grow," he said. "Innovation and social development go hand in hand. It was true then and true now." The king and queen flew out Tuesday afternoon for Chicago.
The visit celebrated the bond between the Netherlands and Michigan. Communities such as Holland, Michigan, are known for their Dutch heritage. About 481,000 people of Dutch ancestry live in Michigan, out or 4.5 million nationwide, officials say.
It's Willem-Alexander's first official U.S. visit since becoming king in 2013. The trip began Monday with a Washington stop that included a meeting with President Barack Obama and a stop at Arlington National Cemetery.