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“We come every year and I love the history, the German Folklore, and we just have a nice time,” said Kim Eubanks, Quakertown, and added, “I have some Pennsylvania German in my family.”
The Kutztown Folk Festival is a beloved annual tradition drawing not just local people, but people from across the country. Eubanks, like many others, learn from various seminars about what life was life going as far back as the 16th century. Guest speakers like Mike Rhoads take attendees on journeys through Switzerland where people were baptized into the church of their Prince or King.
“When you choose to change your religion, it’s a death sentence,” said Rhoads.
Rhoad’s seminar was one of several that captivated large audiences. There were seminars on schooling, spirituality and on Mennonite weddings with volunteers performing a mock wedding led by Rhoads.
“Up to the 1950s, no wedding bands, no jewelry (men or women), absolutely no make-up, no cutting your hair, plain coat and bow-tie, girls wore a cape-dress and if baptized into the church, girls had to wear a head piece.” Rhoads said and included in his list the relinquishing of all insurances, T.V.’s and radios. Rhoad’s discussion even included the Pennsylvania Dutch and the Civil War.
The history behind Dutchmen in the Civil War is to become an entirely new feature of the Kutztown Folk Festival for its 63rd year. According to the festival’s website, there will be reenactments of encampment, cavalry horses, and a private collection of Civil War artifacts never before made public.
Dr. David L. Valuska, a retired professor of history (emeritus) from Kutztown University, will be sharing his knowledge of Dutchmen in the Civil War. Valuska was the founder and executive director of the Pennsylvania German Cultural Heritage Center in Kutztown. His expansive credits include having served as historic consultant for the movies, Gettysburg, and, Gods and Generals.
Along with the new presentation will be continued traditions such as the hanging of Susanna Cox,who was hung in Reading, June 10, 1809, for infanticide. It was in death that Cox gained so much notoriety and compassion that her story continues to live on in re-enactments at the Kutztown Folk Festival.
Attendees Janice and Raymond Kemmerer sat on a little hill overlooking the gallows waiting for the re-enactment to begin during last year’s festival. Janice said her son’s in-laws, from the Limekiln/Oley Valley area, is where this all took place.
It wasn’t just history that attendees learned about, it was a way of life as demonstrated by the many vendors and artisans from wood carving, to roof thatching, to making apple jelly.
Dianna James, Richmond, Va., dressed in period clothing, enacted the making of jams and jelly in 1850.
“Especially in this area, there is an abundance of apples so they would have been making apple butter and apple jellies,” said James.
People come to the festival just to stock up on the home-crafted foods. Toni Bejuwa, Easton, attends every year.
“The first time was for the Pennsylvania Dutch food and after that we have bought wood carvings, clocks, art, and food like the maple syrup,” said Bejuwa as she pointed to her bag of purchases at last year’s festival.
The festival also features activities for kids including puppet shows, Noah’s World Animal Park, mazes and more. There are activities and interests geared towards the entire family. For more information, go to www.kutztownfestival.com.
The festival runs from June 30 to July 8, from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. If you would like to receive a free brochure, email email@example.com.