From humble beginnings to a cherished local attraction, Nelis’ Dutch Village has been celebrating Dutch traditions and heritage in Holland since 1958.
“My dad and my uncle started Dutch Village, and it was one single little building with a windmill on top,” said Joe Nelis, co-owner and president. “There wasn’t a plan in 1958 to build a Dutch theme park. It was an offshoot of the tulip farm; it just grew organically.”
Dutch Village originally began as a tulip farm, and with the Tulip Time Festival’s growing popularity, the Nelis family’s tulip farm became an instant hit among tourists. And the rest is history.
Now in its 60th year, the attraction is doing something a little different with its events. Dutch Village is teaming up with a local nonprofit for each event throughout the year to help raise awareness and money for the organizations.
“We decided we would take all 26 events and work with nonprofits for all 26, and try to do things to benefit these nonprofits,” Nelis said. “Every single weekend, we’re working with someone different.”
Some of the nonprofits include Community Action House, Nestlings Diaper Bank, Eighth Day Farm, Grant Me Home and Heights of Hope.
Visitors to Nelis’ Dutch Village can watch authentic Dutch dancers and take their own dance lesson afterward, and even try on a pair of wooden shoes after seeing how they’re made.
Guests also can make their own stroopwafel, a waffle made from two layers of baked dough with a caramel filling, and sample 22 different types of Dutch and Michigan cheeses while taking in a cheese-making demonstration.
Aside from demonstrations, the village has shops, a pub, cafe, petting zoo, zip line, swing ride and a windmill ride, which is part Ferris wheel and part Dutch Windmill.
“Every activity we do is experiential,” Nelis said. “We kind of hit on the idea that the Dutch Village is a step back into the Netherlands 100 years ago. It’s a fun day, but especially for families.”