Unique and characteristic to IJlst are the waterside gardens on each side of the Ee.
Elderly people referring to these yards in the Frisian language, will often speak of the 'bleek’ (bleach). This was the old function of such a grassy area, to bleach the white laundry. After a boil wash in the olden days, the laundry was laid out on the grass, so that the sunlight could dry and bleach it. The previous residents of the Galama and Eegracht canalside houses in IJlst had their bleaches on the other side of the street. They needed to cross the street to reach them therefore, hence the Dutch word 'overtuin': garden on the other side. With the invention of washing machines, the bleaching function was to disappear.
Yet the people of IJlst have kept their gardens on the other side, and preserved this unique feature of the city. Nowadays, this is common land owned by the municipality and made available to the community for use, as long as it is kept well maintained. Each year, on the first Saturday of June, the people of IJlst organise the 'Overtuinen fair'. Around 50 stalls are then set up in the many gardens. Between them, they offer a variety of curiosities, bric-a-brac, antiques, garden furniture, home decoration, or flowers and plants, clothing and religious statues. There are also tasty treats, and artists practising many crafts and trades. And so the ‘overtuinen’ have regained an active and very useful function.