Michigan, Where We've Been

Windmill Island Gardens, Nelis’ Dutch Village, and De Klomp Wooden Shoe Factory

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Windmill Island Gardens

Michigan has a number of regions which trace their ancestry back to different countries in Europe. People who were originally from countries such as The Netherlands or Germany, for example, would settle in groups across the U.S. according to their cultures and languages. Holland, Michigan is one such place where the residents have settled who trace their ancestry back to Holland in Europe. 

To keep their traditions alive, the residents of Holland, Michigan, have fashioned the city after the architecture in the Dutch style, with windmills and tulips dotting the hillside, wooden shoes and delft blue pottery staying alive through stores and workshops, and an old fashioned amusement park centered around a Dutch theme. 

Here at Windmill Island Gardens, an original Dutch windmill can be seen towering over a garden of flowers. During tulip festival in April/May, the area is in full bloom with fields of tulips. 

The DeZaan Windmill was giving to the people of Holland, Michigan in the 1960s with the stipulation that it be kept working and used for educational purposes. The windmill works as a grist mill grinding both wheat berries and corn kernels.

Its two fan blades are joined in the middle and together weigh a startling 6,600 pounds. 

When not in use, the blades are tied down to the deck to keep them from spinning and injuring someone. They also spin around 360 degrees to face into the wind, whichever direction it is blowing that day.

It’s not all about the windmill thought. This bridge is a recreation of a bridge found in The Netherlands. The original bridge was a toll bridge and a draw bridge, working for hundreds of years, providing safe passage across the water. The two arches would fold out and allow the middle to open upwards for boats to pass through.

Carved wooden shoes, stroopwaffels, and other delights can be found on site, as well as an enchanting carousel for the kids.

This pipe organ also came from Holland and was a gift to the people of the town. It works by inserting wooden cards with slots cut into it into the back of the player. The player reads the holds in the cards and knows what notes to play, much the same way as a player piano.

Down below a bellows is puffed in and out and drums beat to the sound of the music.

Take a listen:


Nelis’ Dutch Village

Nelis’ Dutch Village is a fanciful little amusement park that exonerates the Dutch culture. Some of the rides like a ferris wheel, pedal cars, and swings are meant for younger kids, but even my tween and teen liked it. 

At certain times during the day, they play their Dutch Organ and dance a classic Dutch dance in their wooden shoes. In order to keep them from being kicked off, they wear multiple pairs of socks to provide a tight fit, sometimes even seven pairs! It doesn’t always work, however. During one particular movement, the dancers are to kick their feet high into the air. One of the women kicked her foot with such force that the shoe flew off her foot, went across the walking area and landed in the bottom of the creek. It had to be fished out by another woman, but she had to finish the dance with only one wooden shoe on her foot. 

Traditional Dutch Dance:

She lost her shoe while dancing:

Even though they were meant for younger kids, the adults here were having just as much fun, so the kids wanted to try the swings too. 

This was their favorite, however. Water balloons were loaded into rubbed band bound cups, propelling them across the way to try to hit a bullseye target to splash their opponent.

They also got to go to Dutch school and learn some new words.

Wooden shoes are used for more than dancing and gardening. They make great team building games.

A wooden shoe craftsman gave us a demonstration on making wooden shoes from start to finish. Interestingly, he says he keeps the wood to carve the wooden shoes in the creek until it’s ready to be made into a shoe. This helps to keep the wood wet and not dry out so that it’s easier to carve.

We also got to see the delft blue pottery making. 

Each kid was given a couple to make their very own stroopwaffel. 

So they teamed up with a baker, taking the dough, putting it onto the waffle iron, shaping it and adding the delicious syrupy filling. Yum!


De Klomp Wooden Shoe Factory

There are actually two wooden shoe factories in town. The other is called the De Klomp Wooden Shoe Factory. Here they have machines that etch out the shoes using another shoe as a stencil. Blocks of wood are placed on either side of the stencil and using the machine to go around and into the shoe, it carves out the shoe, making the work much faster.

The kids tried on their sizes and found that they didn’t really feel all that bad. I don’t know about dancing in them without all those socks, but they really are quite comfortable. 



Ottawa County Fairgrounds Campground

Having RVs at this fairground seems like an after thought and some of the sites I wouldn’t dare to put a fifth wheel (or at least anything larger than a small trailer) in. The trees have not been maintained to allow for overhead clearance in some places, making our exit difficult. There was an area in front of our site with construction fencing and no trespassing signs. The elliptical racetrack area was behind us and it also looked to be under construction.

The utilities were interesting. They were groups of electrical boxes and outlets every few sites, spigots were grouped together and interspersed, and gray water dump was available in a few locations.

The dump station was accessible for our tote tank, but I wouldn’t drive our fifth wheel down that dirt path due to overgrown limbs and muddy conditions. Some of the sites designated for camping on the outer portion would have been impossible for us to get into due to low hanging wires and tree limbs.

The sites near the office/entry were on uneven ground. We chose the first space with a concrete pad (105) and it was decent for our fifth wheel. I wouldn’t want to venture too much farther into the campground with the rig.

They did have tennis courts on site and a playground for the kids that seemed decently maintained. No one was in the office, so we couldn’t ask any questions (like where in the world was the dumpster located) and everyone came to us asking questions when we were outside.

We got 10 down/18 up on Starlink. 4 bars on the Verizon phones and 5 bars with the cell antenna. AT&T was 5 bars with the cell antenna.