Rooster and I decided to do something corny. We paid a visit to Nelis’ Dutch Village. What we discover there was a heartwarming immigrant success story.
Why we decided to go to Nelis’ Dutch Village
We have passed by the quaint fenced off area with the Ferris wheel and the replica buildings of a village you might encounter if you went to Holland many times. It looked like an amusement park you might take small children to for the afternoon. We determined to have the full tourist experience on our day in Holland, Michigan. Since it was our anniversary, it is a rule the couple can do whatever they wanted to do without ridicule, so Rooster pointed the car toward U.S. 31 in the direction of Nelis’ Dutch Village. (I know about the truth of the existence of the anniversary rule because I just made it up.)
The face masks covering everyone’s mouth and nose let us know COVID-19 restrictions applied to this theme park. We paid the price of admission and entered the tiny amusement park knowing about the limited attractions. We wouldn’t be able to watch the live history demonstrations, and there would be no artisan making wooden shoes. I’m starting to wonder if the COVID virus isn’t an excuse for businesses to cut services and labor costs while still charging full price. Where would a wooden shoemaker find work if he was furloughed from this tourist attraction?
Our experience at Nelis’ Dutch Village
Rooster and I entered the Carillion Bell Tower not certain about what we would encounter when we entered this replica of a Dutch Village. After a short stroll along the canal, we walked through the door of a shop that sold a large assortment of wooden shoes and Delftware. We spent about an hour walking through the shop, examining the merchandise. It was one of the highlights of our Nelis’ Dutch village experience. I could tell Rooster wanted to take home some of those wooden shoes, but the price tag on a pair his size was through the roof. We all know he is a frugal man.
I found the Delftware interesting. A person can find random pieces of these blue and white plates, bowls, and cups in antique shops all across the great lakes, but I never knew the significance of these random pieces of dinnerware. I may consider starting a collection since I find the Dutch origin and history so intriguing. Rooster has his typewriters and antique cameras. I might as well start searching for creamers and plates done in blues and whites.
The Rides we saw in operation
It appeared some of the rides, such as the zip line, remained closed, but we did see a number of them up and running. Children enjoyed riding the painted horses on the 1924 Herschell-Spillman Carousel. Rooster tried to convince me to go up with him on the Windmill Ferris Wheel, but I refused. I have an aversion to any amusement ride that lifts into the air. (See “Mama, the Hammer, and the Carney Man” to understand how I acquired the fear.) The squeals of children echoed from the Dutch Chair Swing Ride.
The Pirate Balloon Battle ended up being the most interesting interactive activity in the village. Two wooden replicas of pirate ships facing one another manned by people, shooting water balloons at one another out of the ship’s side. The participants in the game were more than six feet apart. The distance made it a good way to have fun without COVID-19 restrictions. People unmasked while they fired the balloons. Rooster and I joined in the fun as innocent bystanders. It felt good when the water sprayed us because of the heat on this hot afternoon.
The Petting Zoo at Nelis’ Dutch village
My favorite part of the day was spending time in the chicken coop with the hens and roosters. I couldn’t believe my luck when I discovered we could enter the henhouse. Rooster said it made his heart glad when I climbed through the tiny doorway. I spent most of the afternoon watching the birds and snapping pictures. I believe the ladies enjoyed being photographed. They didn’t like being chased around the coop by the children, although there was one bird who seemed to rise to the challenge of getting picked up to be petted.
Rooster thought the long-faced goats were cute. The sheep greedily hung out near the fence, waiting for children to feed them out of ice cream cones. The baby pigs hung out in the shade and rolled in the dirt to stay cool. All of the animals were adorable. It was the most interesting part of our adventure at the Dutch Village.
The immigrant story
The demonstrations are currently all closed at Nelis” Dutch Village due to COVID-19. We did stumble across a film played on a flat-screen television. It told the story of how the Nelis family immigrated to America from the Netherlands. In 1917, the world was on the brink of war. Frederick Nelis asked his son Harry to go to America with him to search for some good farmland. Times were tough in Holland. The two men sailed on the S.S. Noordam and arrived at Ellis Island in October.
\The first stop they made was in Missouri. It is hard to raise vegetables in the rocky soil they found there. The men decided to move to Chicago and find jobs. They worked at several occupations before they heard about the Dutch community on the shores of Lake Michigan called Holland. They purchased eighty acres north of town and grew vegetables to sell in Chicago. Their produce business became profitable, and the rest of the family followed them to America. The Nelis’ turned the land into a tulip farm. The family purchased the current location in 1952, and it quickly became a tourist attraction, and the Tulip Time Festival was born. Construction of the replica Dutch Villiage started, and they became a retail outlet for bulbs and souvenirs. Members of the Nelis family still work in the Dutch Village business.
Interactive demonstrations we missed due to COVID-19
- Delftware making &the VanderWilt Antiques
- Wooden shoe carving by hand and machine
- Dutch dancing in front of the Amsterdam Street Organ
- Frisian Farmhouse and attached barn
- The Kolean Museum
- Waagebouw-Replica of a weight house. (You can be weighed to see if you could be a witch.)
- De Oude School- a one-room schoolhouse
- Old Dutch Farmhouse
Our visit to Neils’ Dutch Village turned out to be a fun way to spend a couple of hours. I feel like I would have had a richer experience if the demonstrations had operated like normal. Next time we go, we might want to grab a grandkid to take with us. That way, we could avoid looking like two older people experiencing our second childhood, which begs the question as to why kids get to have all the fun. It is a place they would have a blast visiting. We both thought the price steep, considering the absence of the demonstrations. It is hard to get the full effect of an adventure destination with all these Covid-19 restrictions. Overall, Rooster and I had a good time at Nelis” Dutch Village.
“In a tough economy, it is never wise to put all your eggs in one basket. You need to diversify to maximize the earning potential of your hens.” Rhody Norris, author of Aunt Rhody’s Handbook on Chicken Farming.
Who is Molly Shea?
Molly Shea is an accomplished fictional short story writer from Indiana, who writes short stories and novels about a fictional town called Tecumseh. To read more of her short stories and adventures click here.
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