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Living History
Written by By Kelly Kalb, Correspondent
2012-07-05

Husband and wife team Richard and Marie Schaeffer work side by side in the Virginville Grange food stand making funnel cakes. The festival offers a wide variety of Pennsylvania Dutch foods.

        Already in its 63rd year, the Kutztown Folk Festival will capture anyone’s attention who enjoys folk art, crafts, good food and lots of family fun, as well as Civil War history. 

        Festival Director Dave Fooks said, “There is truly something for everyone and this year there will be more for our guests to enjoy than ever before.” 
        Even with the sweltering summer heat, the festival offers ways to cool off. Visiting the air-conditioned quilt barn will allow festival-goers to view a beautiful display of more than 2,500 locally made quilts and wall hangings while taking a seat to relax. 
       The festival is very well-known for its quilt display and, every year on the event’s second Saturday, 24 quilts that are judged to be “the best of the best” are available for auction. This year, July 7 at noon on the main stage, the auction will begin. Collectors from all over the world will be present to get their hands on one of the hand-crafted Pennsylvania Dutch quilts.
 

The Schusslers hoe-down dancing group gives a performance of a traditional hoe-down at the Kutztown Folk Festival which opened Saturday and will continue through Sunday, July 8.

      If you’re looking for a refreshing beverage, visit any of the numerous “drinka” stands available throughout the festival or step out of the quilt barn and visit the “Bier Gaarde Weg” (Beer Garden Way). After tasting one of several kinds of beer, visitors can turn the corner for the sweet smell of homemade baked breads and iced cinnamon rolls as well as pies. 
       The bake oven itself is a wonderful way to view how breads and other P.A. Dutch treats were made in the 1800s. Gary Hertzog, the bake oven operator, manages the large wood fire in the oven’s hearth to control the temperature for baking. Festival-goers will certainly experience a step back in time by watching the bakers and brick oven in action.
       This year is the 150th anniversary of the American Civil War and the festival is featuring the participation of the Pennsylvania Civil War Road Show. 
        Any history-lover will tell you the award-winning show won’t disappoint.

Annie Niekerk feeds one of the goats in the petting zoo, just one of many attractions for children.

        The road show is a traveling exhibition set up inside a 53-foot, air-conditioned tractor-trailer. There are extensive collections of Civil War artifacts, personal memorabilia, interactive features, 3-D stereoscopic photographs, Civil War-era music, sound effects, audio devices, and flipbooks. The display also offers volunteers who are able to answer questions on the exhibits. 
        There is no added fee to tour the collection and children can also view Civil War photographs at their level along with animated features and scrolling comic strips. 
        Not only does the festival offer the traveling road show, it also has Civil War experts on-hand regarding various topics of the war including the Pennsylvania Dutch involvement, cavalry tactics, medical practices during war time, directional signs used on quilts for the Underground Railroad and explanations on life as an infantryman. 
        Dr. David L. Valuska, an expert in both Revolutionary and Civil Wars, previous history professor at Kutztown University, and founder and executive director of the Pennsylvania German Heritage Center at Kutztown University, will be presenting daily lectures at the festival on Pennsylvania Dutch culture and the Civil War. Valuska will also discuss Pennsylvania Dutch soldiers’ roles in the war and their contributions to Union regiments.
        Many people do not fully understand the involvement of the P.A. Dutch in the history of the Civil War. It was perhaps the first major crisis they participated in as American citizens. Men and boys devoted to family and farm life were sacrificing their lives for others in a national cause. They left home speaking the P.A. Dutch language and fought bravely for Union regiments, one being the 167th Pennsylvania Volunteers, who were composed almost entirely of PA Dutchmen. 
         If you have a love of local history and the Civil War, you will certainly be educated on the topic by visiting the festival.
         There truly is something for everyone at the Kutztown Folk Festival. A multitude of authentic food and desserts, handmade crafts and quilts, pottery, jewelry, fabrics, hex signs, and various child-friendly events including a puppet theater. 
        The Kutztown Folk Festival runs from June 30 through July 8 at the Kutztown Fairgrounds from 9 a.m. until 6 p.m. daily. To find out more information on the festival, its activities, and to view a map of the grounds, visit www.kutztownfestival.com.

 

 

 

 

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