69th Kutztown Folk Festival: Attractions added for Pennsylvania-Dutch celebration
Large-scale model trains, an authentic harvest celebration and a 100-year-old printing press are some of the new attractions at the 69th annual Kutztown Folk Festival, which brings all things Pennsylvania-Dutch to the Kutztown Fairgrounds June 30 - July 8.
And there are new crafts and new foods to join with all the old favorites at the annual celebration of Pennsylvania-Dutch, ne, German culture.
Steve Sharadin, Kutztown Folk Festival Director, says the volunteers preparing the festival’s Union Church for the “Harvest Home” celebration “really brought some new life into the church as they decked it out with flowers, fruits and vegetables.”
The celebration recreates the Pennsylvania-Dutch tradition of adorning a local church with harvest decorations in celebration of a successful harvest and safe storage of food before winter.
“We are tying it in with a food drive,” Sharadin says. “Part of the ‘Harvest Home’ celebration was to donate to people in need in the community.”
Food collected with be given to Kutztown area families in need.
The nine-day festival, which had been around since 1950, is said to be the United States’ oldest folklife festival. It celebrates the region’s heritage through Pennsylvania-Dutch folklife demonstrations, crafts and antiques, traditional food and drink and six stages of entertainment.
Sharadin says one of the festival’s pavilions got an overhaul this year so it can house a garden-scale model train display as well as a new food vendor cooking family-style dinners over an open fire pit.
The 30 ft by 20 ft. garden-sized model train exhibit is presented by the Allentown and Auburn Railroad Society of Kutztown. The operating train layout features large engines and cars that are up to two-feet long. The exhibit includes train memorabilia and educational displays.
Sharadin says the pavilion also will be home to a third-generation food vendor who will serve chicken barbecue cooked the old-fashioned way over hot coals.
The festival will welcome a fully-operating printing press from the National Museum of Industrial History, Bethlehem.
“Visitors will learn about the history of the printing press and how it has been so influential in the development of our country,” Sharadin says. “They also will be able to make festival souvenirs on the press.”
Two dozen new craftsmen will mix in with returning craftsmen for a total of 200 juried folk artists and craftsmen from across the country. Crafts span a range from traditional broom-making to fine jewelry.
“We have people from Tennessee who do traditional folk crafts in the Appalachian Mountains and come back year after year,” Sharadin says. “They are all a part of the folk festival family.”
The festival is home to the what’s believed to be the nation’s largest quilt sale, including an auction of the top award-winning quilts at noon July 7 on the festival’s main stage.
Sharadin says the festival gets more than 2,000 quilt submissions which are vetted, and 75 picked to be judged by professionals. Of those, 25 are chosen to be auctioned off. The others are available for sale in the Quilt Barn.
“We have some great quilts this year,” Sharadin says.
Also for sale, will be four large Barn Stars, aka Hex Signs, that will be painted on wood while visitors watch.
“We have three of the area’s top Barn Star painters up on a ladder painting aerial Barn Stars during the festival,” Sharadin says. “Then they will be sold at the end of the quilt auction. It’s a neat way to end the auction.”
The geometric star signs are four feet in diameter and can be disassembled for travel, Sharadin says.
Food is a big part of the festival. Visitors can get traditional Pennsylvania-Dutch dishes, including Schnitz und knepp (ham and dried apples) and corn pie. Other festival favorites include potpie, fritters, schnitzel, sausage, shoo-fly pie, scrapple, apple dumplings and homemade ice cream.
“We have a19th century stone bake oven cranking out fresh loaves of bread and sticky buns,” Sharadin says.
The Dietrich family, who have a traditional farmer’s market at the festival, includes three generations.
“The festival gets in in so many people’s blood,” Sharadin says.
For children. there is a petting zoo, craft areas, pony rides, hay maze and a carousel powered by a horse.
At Children’s Farmyard Theater, Ed and Brenda Hanna will present their popular puppet show and, new this year, their grandson, E.C. Hanna, will perform a magic show.
“This is a talented family,” Sharadin says. “E.C. Hanna’s magic show attracts crowds of more than 100.”
There is plenty of old-fashioned entertainment from fiddlers, folksingers, comedy, square-dancing, cultural seminars, schoolhouse lessons, country auctions, and the strolling Sauerkraut Brass Band.
“Square-dancing and our hoedown stage is always popular,” Sharadin says. “We feature four generations of dancers.”
Five years ago, the festival added evening hours on selected nights. This year, the festival is open until 8 p.m. June 30, and July 1, 6 and 7.
“It’s a nice time to come,” says Sharadin. “There is a really neat vibe. The beer garden is in full swing and there are four area wineries that participate where you can sample great wines.”
A highlight July 6 is the “Friday Night Hoedown Showdown,” in which the Lester Miller Square Dance family and Celtic Martin family dancers perform in a dance-off with square-dancing and Irish folk-dancing. The event is hosted by Dave Klein of the “Mountain Folk” radio show. “The dancing is impressive and at the end everyone is welcome to come up and learn the steps,” Sharadin says.
Other new performers include Robby Lawrence & The Steelworkers, The Blaskapelle Shippensburg German Band, Doug Madenford’s Ask A Dutchman, Stella Ruze, Carbon Drifters, Butter Queen Sister, and Tool Shed.
Kutztown Folk Festival, 10 a.m. - 8 p.m. June 30, July 1, 6 and 7; 10 a.m. - 6 p.m. July 2 - 5 and July 8. Ticket information: kutztownfestival.com; 888-674-6136