The 47th annual Goschenhoppen Historians’ Folk Festival once again allowed visitors to the Henry Antes Plantation in Frederick to step back in time and witness how past inhabitants of the area carved out a niche for themselves in America.
This year’s theme -- “From Hearth to Cookstove” -- showcased changes in cooking technology through the 18th and 19th
centuries. Local historian Bob Wood talked about Goschenhoppen folkways, while Nancy Roan and Alan Keyser discussed how the cookstove revolutionized cooking techniques of the day. Pennsylvania German historian and Town & Country publisher Larry Roeder also talked about fire hazards of the various cooking techniques.
The theme was underscored by the array of tasty morsels prepared onsite on the 13 cookstoves throughout the grounds and available to sample. From the traditional chicken pot pie to corn pie, roasted chicken, cole slaw, onion pie, saffron cake, fresh-baked rye bread and more, festival goers were able to experience the culinary traditions of the day first-hand.
Liz Haeckler, 15, of Boyertown, was demonstrating how to make peach ice cream in a bowl of ice, a particularly refreshing treat during the summer’s day. An apprentice in her third year at the festival, Haeckler has made funnel cake and demonstrated food preservation in past years.
“I love to help out the community and I love German heritage,” Haeckler said about her work at the festival.
Giant 50-cent slices of watermelon could be spotted in young and old hands alike throughout the festival, although potato candy was the highlight of the day for Ruth, 9, Lena, 9, and Jake, 6, Fusco of Trooper.
But food was certainly not the only attraction. Mother Jacki Fusco said, “We love to see the crafts and trades from Pennsylvania German history,” Fusco said. “And it’s fun!” The Fuscos has just finished trying their hands at weaving flax thread, which was used for various items, including shoe laces.
Like many people at the event, the Fuscos visit the festival annually. Daughter Nikki, 17, has worked at the festival in the past making hat boxes, corn dolls and pot pie, and her younger siblings will soon become apprentices themselves.
Over at the garden outside the Antes house, festival goers swapped garden tips and inquired about some of the more unusual varietals growing. Medicinal and culinary herbs formed the interior border of the garden along with Dipping Gourds draping over the fence. Visitors to the garden puzzled over the spiky gherkins (an old German cucumber variety), mole plants and other items growing that are not so common these days.
Over at the 18th century army encampment, Mike Kochan, an American war historian from Paoli, discussed artillery of the Revolutionary War era. The explosive boom from the reproduction Wall Gun could be heard periodically echoing across the festival grounds. The massive gun, weighing in at nearly 40 pounds and so large that it needed to be steadied on a tripod, was considered light artillery in the 18th century.
“It’s fun being able to have an audience,” Kochan said about his festival experience. “The questions the kids ask -- you know there’s some great thinking going on in there.”
Volunteers and apprentices also demonstrated a variety of 18th and 19th century trades and crafts. Of course, no Pennsylvania German folk festival would be complete without a look at farming implements of the day, and the horse-powered threshing machine drew crowds whenever the treadmill started rolling. Children and adults also passed through the animals section, where a turkey roamed free, puffing and strutting, and downy ducklings were cradled in volunteers’ hands and laps.
Visitors could also take a ride in an authentic period wagon and watch a butchering demonstration using 18th and 19th century methods. “All meat used. Nothing wasted,” proclaimed the festival guide. Butchering produced cuts of beef and port, sausage and scrapple, lard and clear tallow for candles and soap.
“I love it. I come every year,” said Kathy Laird of Gilbertsville, who was there with her husband Joe, a first-timer at the festival. The Lairds, owners of Tailwind Bicycles in Schwenksville, said they appreciated the opportunity to take in the local history.
“It’s like going back in time,” Joe Laird said, adding that the living history brought to mind the word “unencumbered.”
Kathy agreed. “I know it was tougher, but I would almost prefer to live then,” she said.