Summer has arrived in Kutztown with the annual Kutztown Folk Festival, highlighting PA Dutch traditions by way of food, fun, quilts and crafters.
The festival has expanded this year, under new director Steve Sharidin, with extended hours (10 a.m. to 8 p.m. with the last day closing at 5 p.m.) for festival-goers who'd rather not bear the daytime heat.
Over 250 folk artists and traditional American craftsmen come together to show off their talents for this nine-day event running June 28 through July 6. Whether it's pottery or stoneware, baskets, jewelry, art, furniture, leather products or garden sculptures, the festival appeals to many visitors, young and old.
Children can enjoy numerous activities including puppet shows, sing-a-longs, story time, crafts, play areas, pony rides and a petting zoo. Children are no strangers to participating onstage as well though.
This year marks the first performances for hoedown caller Lester Miller's great-grandchildren. Miller's family tradition has been passed down for generations and paved the way for his great grandchildren to begin performing this year.
The Miller family hits the hoedown stage four times a day (noon, 1:30 p.m., 3 p.m. and 4:30 p.m.) all nine days of the festival. The children's group is called the Wunnerfritzes which means "nosey children" in Dutch, explained Missy Losito of Kutztown, whose children perform.
"The festival is fun with my family. I like dancing," Kayde Losito, age 6, remarked. While his 4-year-old brother Dayne Losito said, "Everything is awesome at the festival!"
Whether performing, helping out, or visiting, children make up a large portion of festival guests.
Aidan Geiger, 8, of Catasaqua traveled with his mother and grandmother. Geiger admits to enjoying the children's area filled with a barnyard bounce house and slide, but his mother Nicole prefers the traditional crafts and grandmother Vicky is a quilt lover for some 30 years.
The time-honored tradition of quilting continues to draw people to the Kutztown Folk Festival. The rain or shine quilt display and subsequent auction has never disappointed quilt lovers as the pieces are shown off in a large air-conditioned building with staff on hand to assist with questions.
Over 2,000 handmade quilts visit the festival each year and range in size and price. Twenty-four of the quilts receive top honors through a competitive process performed by a panel of quilt judges with four then being designated as the best. Top honored quilts are up for auction on Sat. July 5 from noon until 2 p.m. on the main stage.
If traditional PA Dutch food is what you are searching for, look no further. The festival offers a 1,200-pound ox slow roasted on a spit for 12 hours as well as hearth baked breads and cinnamon buns, homemade ice cream, sausage sandwiches, kettle corn, and maple sugar treats just to name a few. Wash it all down with a beer from the Bier Gaarde, birch beer, lemon or orange "drinka."
Visitors can celebrate the Fourth of July by experiencing the parade and festival on Friday starting at 11 a.m. until noon.
New attractions this year for the festival are Grand Ole Opry-style music and a variety show for two hours each night 6-8 p.m., blue grass music, and a public square dance.
Regardless of your interests, visiting the Kutztown Folk Festival is a time-honored tradition and will probably remain so for years to come.
For information on the festival, visit www.kutztownfestival.com.