DeMOTTE — As the summer season was coming to a close, a new opening was being introduced at the Touch of Dutch Festival this year. Rick Klompmaker, a shoemaker from Holland, Michigan, visited us at the festival to demonstrate the art of wooden shoemaking. This was Rick’s first year at the Touch of Dutch, and he congregated a crowd of people, filling up his chairs every time a new shoe was made. As Rick was making the shoes he explained how the shoes are made of “white woods”, how it takes about 25 minutes to make a child’s size pair of shoes and that Klompmaker does in fact translate to “wooden shoe maker.”

Rick has been making wooden shoes since 1981, although his journey to making wooden shoes is one that was unexpected. As a small town kid, tyrannized by his fellow peers because of his background, Rick wanted to escape from prejudice, and use his knowledge elsewhere. So, the beginning of Rick’s career started in college. Knowing he wanted to teach, (and somehow escape his ancestry), Rick began going to college for German Language, and continued on to start to earn his PhD.

But in 1981, Rick began to question what he really could do with his degree, and what he what he truly wanted to do in life. It all began with a visit to his Uncle Fred, the man who would soon teach him his new passion in life. His Uncle Fred had been demonstrating the art of making wooden shoes in many festivals, including Tulip Time in Holland, MI.

His uncle took the next year and a half to teach Klompmaker the art of wooden shoemaking. One Saturday afternoon, Fred asked him to go and make a wooden shoe. Klompmaker came back with an almost perfectly-carved shoe and handed it to his uncle. Fred took a long look at the shoe and said, “Alright. I’m done. You have it down good enough.” From that moment on, Rick has been carrying on the Klompmaker name for wooden shoe making.

Klompmaker can teach us all something very important from his success story. Although at points in one’s life, others may be tormented about his background, it is something to be proud of. Rick says that when he began to see the knowledge and passion he could spread for shoemaking, it was the “first glimmering of appreciation for my hometown.”

Through both Rick and Uncle Fred, we can all learn to “never be ashamed of a small town.”