Thanks to Gerard van Groningen, Nijmegen has had a lot of parties

Gerard van Groningen learned to work hard at an early age when he regularly had to skip elementary school to help out with his adoptive parents’ green groceries. Later he took the lead as a party and event organizer in Nijmegen. A difficult childhood taught him to fully enjoy work and life.

Marlis Kift

Gerrard has always had an entrepreneurial heart, as as a young boy he sold his leftover crates of vegetables for a cent a few weeks before a four-day walking tour of Nijmegen. Spectators can stand on it to get a better look at the procession of thousands of pedestrians. The boy at that time did not know that, as an adult, he would become the organizer of the celebrations of the Four Days’ Great Marches and many other events. But the questions were already inside him. Where is the gap in the market? How can I make people happy?

Gerrard had not received much education in his youth. His parents desperately needed him at the vegetable seller in Nijmegen in the post-war years. After primary school, where he often failed, there was no room for further education. He had more work experience. Work hard and don’t groan. He later passed on this work ethic to his two sons. Why is it cold? Then he told Gerard of the old days how he and his father had to remove a meter and a half of snow before they could take the vegetables away by horse and wagon. That was cool.

On Saturdays, in Gerrard’s childhood, there was of course also work to be done at work. Dan often helps a friend with his vegetable cart. That way they were ready early and the boys had time to play football. While Van Groningen’s father was drinking at the last customer, Gerrard and his friend put the horse and cart aside and started kicking the ball. Once they were so busy that they forgot the horse that was walking in the cart back to the stable at the greengrocer.

He was always one step faster

Gerrard’s teenage years weren’t easy. His adoptive father, with whom he reconciled, died. Even harder work had to be done to keep everything running. Football was his wonderful outlet. Gerrard was a born goalkeeper. The ball can’t go through the tall athletic boy. He had courage and character, he dived for balls and defended with his life for the goal. He showed his team spirit as a member of the Brakkenstein football club Nijmegen, where he would stay for sixty years. From the target, he saw everything happening and summoned clues. On the football field, Gerrard gave everything he had, just as in ordinary life.

Gerrard waits for his bride, Tiny, on his wedding day in 1967.picture

Inside it was a kind of sacred fire. Gerrard was always one step faster. Perhaps it was about the beginning of his life. Shortly after he was left by his biological mother as an unwanted child with the nuns in Raiden, he was received by his father and adoptive mother who later had a son. He wasn’t bitter about that early start, he didn’t mention it much, but it gave him the impetus to make something good out of his life. Life should be fun, not sad.

As a young man, Gerard began his career, after countless other jobs in his youth, at children’s specialty store Gardo where he became a manager. He called it “the best job in the world,” because he constantly had to deal with happy couples who were expecting or just had a baby. Gerard himself was now married to Tiny, a kind and calm woman, and the couple had two sons. The boys have been taking in the bright pink Gardo truck since they were young, so they can help unpack and furnish the children’s rooms. This way you show them the hard work, but the most important thing they have learned is that you can enjoy your work.

With chewing on holiday

With his distinctive red cheeks and mischievous eyes, Gerard had a knack for organizing festive activities. During the holidays with the caravan with friends and all the kids, he started dumping litter, relay races and karaoke. He and his son-in-law sang the song with a bowl, a ladle, and a sleeping bag around it bim bam by André van Duin. Even the tamed crow Jacob, who grew up in the Gerard family after leaving the nest, was allowed to go on vacation in Belgium. In the car, the bird was in a trunk and kept calm from the hands of the boys. During the holidays he slept in a cage in the canopy and during the day he sat on the shoulder of Gerrard or one of his sons.

Gerrard was nearing thirty when the Nijmegen entrepreneurs organized the first Zomerfeesten, later Vierdaagsefeesten. became a pioneer. This is where his talents met. Organization, overview, drive to work, love to party and happy people. With a mixture of charm and determination, he has managed to accomplish so much in this ever-growing event. In 1994, for example, Andrei brought Rio to the city to perform three years in a row. Instead of standing next to the mayor, Gerard swept across the street and checked if there were enough break-in barriers and if the toilets were in order. He found it difficult to delegate. He did, but in the end he made sure everything was fine. He also used his sons during these days. After a hard day’s work, Gerard enjoyed a beer and a ham sandwich with them and other employees.

As a goalkeeper at FC Brackenstein in Nijmegen in 1982. Image

As a goalkeeper for the Brackenstein Football Club in Nijmegen in 1982.

Meanwhile, he was still playing football at his old club Brakkenstein. At the age of 38, he was asked to take the position of goalkeeper for the first team of eighteen. Gerrard, who began playing football at a lower level in solidarity with his peers, did not have to think twice. As usual, keep all the balls out of the goal. In the field he was a master of the opponent, but also a fearless warrior. Then he said with relief in Nijmegen, “They just kicked me out because of my faggot, but they didn’t get over it.” There was little to be noticed of the age difference, not physical, and after the match it was as tough as it was. When the team had to finish football, he was behind the wheel of a pink Gardo bus, and he had set up garden furniture in the back so the team could be moved royally. He continued to play football well into his forties, after which he became the president of the club.

Not behind the geranium

By organizing Summer Weeks and later Vierdaagsefeesten, his event heart is beginning to blossom and Gerrard exchanges work in a specialty children’s store for his Nijmegen events agency. In the years that followed, he helped make Nijmegen a festive city with, among others, the Waalkade à la carte culinary festival and the Concours d’Elegance, an old-fashioned event, Nijmegen Fietst and Nijmegen Zingt, where people sing well-known songs together in Grote Markt. In addition to organizing parties, he also enjoyed the delights of the city himself, regularly eating at a restaurant, including with his close friends group, which they called De Kwajongens.

During Nijmeegse Zomerfeesten in 1999. Gerrard in the center with a yellow apron.  picture

During Nijmeegse Zomerfeesten in 1999. Gerrard in the center with a yellow apron.picture

Gerrard lived a rich life, but sometimes the question arises of who abandoned him as a child. What is its origin? After a constant search, he discovers that he has a half-brother with the same biological mother. He was in his late forties when he met this brother. She did not make up for everything, but did answer important questions about his origin. This made it easier for him to leave the past behind. He created the same sense of home within his family and extended family in Nijmegen.

In his 60s, the hard worker had to hold back due to heart problems. Gerard behind geraniums was not a good idea. He did not like to sit. During his retirement, he kept co-organizing smaller events, such as his beloved Nijmegen Zingt. He also focused on refurbishing old army vehicles. His children were astonished. Gerrard always had a left hand when doing odd jobs around the house. With the help of the manual, he was able to disassemble the one-ton truck and reassemble it perfectly when cleaned. Then he took his sons for the weekend in the car.

Gerard's last song

Gerrard’s last song “Ringtones Nijmegen”. with one of his grandchildren.picture

Funeral cancellation

When Gerrard was in his mid-70s, he underwent heart surgery. The ending was not favorable, he and his family had to prepare for the end. A good friend came over who would help set up the funeral at home. To his astonishment, Gerard opened the door himself. “The funeral has been cancelled,” he said dryly. New drugs have proven effective. Gerrard lived another five years in injury time. A time he enjoyed, especially his grandchildren. He still wants to participate in his beloved Nijmegen Zingt event. Weak but very happy, less than two weeks before his death, he sat on the podium at the Grote Markt, thanked him with kind words and were sung by hundreds of people. He was among the last to leave around midnight.

Gerard van Groningen was born on June 3, 1941 in Rieden and died on September 7, 2022 in Nijmegen.

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