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Kutztown’s 64th Annual Folk Festival Offers Glimpse of PA Dutch Lifestyle
Written by Kelly Kalb, Correspondent
2013-07-02

 

Jessica Summer and her daughter, Anna, of Macungie, feed a goat in the petting zoo during their visit Sunday to the festival.

         Summer is in full swing in Kutztown with the annual folk festival currently underway until July 7. This rain-or-shine event will not disappoint if you are seeking food, crafts, quilts and fun for the family.

        According to festival history, the tradition began in the summer of 1950 when three folklorists came together to recruit local citizens and Pennsylvania Dutch natives to display and demonstrate their way of life. What began as a four-day event has now spawned into a nine-day festival running from 9 a.m.-6 p.m. daily.

        Anyone in search of traditional Penn. Dutch food will have multiple options at the festival. From roasted ox to kettle corn prepared on-site, there is something for everyone.

        While roaming through the festival offerings of homemade fudge, sweet-smelling oven baked breads and beer, there are also many sights to take in. Five stages are set up throughout the grounds with live music, seminars highlighting various topics of the Dutch heritage and the comedic Liar’s Contest.

        Children of any age can catch a puppet show at the children’s theatre, take a ride on a pony or visit the farm animals at the Noah’s World Petting Zoo tent.

        If Dutch arts and crafts are of interest, the festival displays the works of approximately 220 nationally recognized folk artists and traditional American craftsmen. Stoneware, baskets, hand-crafted jewelry, folk art, leather products, such as belts and purses, as well as garden sculptures make up a portion of the festival.

        Although heavy rains plagued the event on June 30, it did not dampen the spirits of festival-goers.

        “We’ve had such a great time despite the rain. We enjoyed good food and were able to watch the Liar’s Contest,” Eileen Schwalm from Hegins remarked. 

        The majority of people who attended the festival during the pouring rain, lightning and thunder took cover with umbrellas, ponchos and even garbage bags. Despite the gloominess people continued to purchase tickets and wander through the festival running from one tent to another, sampling food and shopping.

        The highlight of the festival for many is the “largest quilt sale in America,” which features more than 2,000 locally handmade quilts available for purchase. The time-honored tradition of quilting has drawn people to the Kutztown Folk Festival for many years and continues to grow every year.

        This year’s selection is said to be a good reflection of the Pennsylvania German style that is  more than 150 years old. Coordinators of the festival report that local Mennonite and Amish women make the majority of the quilts on display with each having its own unique design and color.

        The art of quilt-making began for Penn. Dutch women sometime in the middle of the 19th century and has flourished ever since. What previously was a way to be thrifty and use every possible piece of fabric to create something to keep them warm has now become a collector’s dream.

        Quilts are on display in an air-conditioned building and available for viewing with festival staff on hand to answer questions. Quilts vary in size and price with the smallest being crib-size and the largest king-size. Prices range from around $600 to more than $1,200.

        Ellen Stafiniak traveled from Lehighton to take part in the festivities. “The festival has beautiful crafts and gorgeous quilts. They truly are remarkable,” she said. Stafiniak admitted that the rain would cut her visit short, but said the time spent at the festival was enjoyable.

        With 2,000 quilts being displayed for all to see, there is an arduous process for judges who decide which 24 quilts will receive top honors and be up for auction at noon on the last Saturday of the festival. This is a very selective and competitive process. Of the 24 chosen, four are then designated as the best.

        While the rain created a snag in some of the festivities, people continued to enter the event and, with several days left, there is bound to be more sunshine.

        For more information on the festival and ticket prices, visit www.kutztownfestival.com.


 

 

 

 

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