‘Mer hoffe mer sehn eich datt’: Kutztown Folk Festival celebrates its 70th year
“Mer hoffe mer sehn eich datt.” (“We hope to see you there.”)
The oldest continuously-operating folk-life festival in the United States celebrates its 70th year when the Kutztown Folk Festival opens June 29 and continues through July 7 at the Kutztown Fairgrounds with all the great traditional foods and displays visitors have come to expect, plus some exciting new features.
The nine-day festival, which focuses on the traditions of the Pennsylvania-Dutch, offers a new interactive country kitchen experience, features concerts by a band touring from Palatine, Germany, and hosts a screening of a documentary on Pennsylvania-Dutch culture made in part at the festival by a German filmmaker.
The festival returns with traditional Pennsylvania-Dutch food, more than 200 nationally-recognized folk artists and craftsmen, more than 2,500 locally hand-made quilts on display and for sale, six stages of entertainment and plenty of children’s activities.
New this year, visitors can buy a “seat at the table” in the Country Kitchen, at which an authentic Pennsylvania-Dutch meal, complete with “seven sweets and seven sours,” is cooked at a 100-year-old stove fired with wood, says Kutztown Folk Festival Director Steve Sharadin.
The Country Kitchen has been a staple at the festival for decades, offering visitors a 45-minute cooking presentation of how Pennsylvania-Dutch meals were prepared in cast-iron stoves that were the “modern luxury” in the late 1800s and early 1900s.
“For the first time, visitors will be served this amazing meal,” Sharadin says.
Traditional foods include pig stomach, schnitz and knepp, chicken potpie, cottage cheese and applebutter, redbeet eggs and chow-chow.
Each meal at 1 p.m. daily during the festival is limited to eight people. To reserve seats, contact Linda Ernst, 610-683-1597, 888-674-6136; Ernst@KutztownFestival.com.
New Paltz, a folk band from Germany, makes its United States debut at the festival, performing daily during the festival as part of a United States-Germany cultural exchange.
The New Paltz band tells the stories of the people of Palatine, Germany, many of whom emigrated to Pennsylvania 300 years ago. New Paltz performs songs in the Pennsylvania-Dutch dialect and the Palatine dialect.
The band’s 10-day American tour is part of the “Deutschlandjahr USA 2018-19,” organized by the German Embassy, Washington, D.C., in cooperation with the Goethe Institute USA and the Federal Foreign Office, Berlin, Germany.
In coordination with the exchange, German filmmaker Christian Schega will screen his documentary, “The Roots of PA Dutch,” at the festival. The documentary explores Pennsylvania-Dutch culture and language in the Palatine and the United States, and was filmed in Germany and the Kutztown area.
The film will be screened in a separate ticketed event at 6:30 p.m. July 2 in the Quilt Barn. Tickets include complimentary beverages.
Sharadin says he is excited about some of the new bands joining the lineup of returning festival favorites.
The festival welcomes Steel Creek Country Band, opening weekend, and Daisy Jug Band, with its upright bass and washboard, the second weekend.
“I’m looking forward to that,” Sharadin says.
Other new bands include 1950s era swing band, Crash Gordon and Debra Dynamite; contemporary folk jazz artists, Stella Ruze, and the Philadelphia German Brass Band, with its 11½-foot Alpine horn.
“Alpine horns were used to send signals from town to town and can be heard five miles away,” Sharadin says.
Also new this year, visitors can operate a hand-operated pump car on 50 feet of railroad track set up on the festival grounds by the Allentown and Auburn Railroad. The railroad organization will have a model railroad display.
In addition to food, music and railroadiana, there will be daily presentations about hex signs, spirituality, and dialect humor on the seminar stage; a reenactment of a 19th-century hanging; an Amish wedding and demonstrations of early farming techniques.
The Lester Miller Family Dancers return with four generations of hoedown dancers, as will the annual Fourth of July Parade, dubbed “The Hokiest Parade in America.”
Children can enjoy the Hanna Family Puppet Show and new magic act; Marty’s Miraculous Flea Circus, and what’s said to be nation’s only remaining active 19th-century horse-drawn carousel.
Sharadin says the festival is implementing week-day admission specials this year in honor of the festival’s 70th anniversary.
Monday is “Senior Day” with discounted tickets for those 55 and older.
Tuesday offers “Two-For-One” pricing.
Wednesday is “Family Day” with discounted tickets for a family of four.
Thursday, July 4, offers discounted tickets for those in the United States military service.
Friday brings back the “Happy Hour” special with discounted admission after 4 p.m.
Admission is free for ages 12 and under.
Parking is free.
Kutztown Folk Festival, 225 N. Whiteoak St., Kutztown. Hours: 10 a.m.-8 p.m. June 29-30 and July 5-6, and 10 a.m.-6 p.m. July 1-4 and July 7. Schedule and information: kutztownfestival.com