Kutztown University's Pa German Heritage Center hosts Heemet Fescht

Patriot photo by Roxanne Richardson
Patriot photo by Roxanne Richardson

Knowing what best represents folk culture came natural for Amanda Richardson when she took on the task to organize the Heritage Harvest Fescht held Sept. 22 at the Pennsylvania German Cultural Heritage Center, Kutztown University.

Richardson, her husband, Keith, and Patrick Donmoyer worked as a team to bring the best of the Pennsylvania Dutch culture to the festival.

“It’s just knowing what the people in this area would have been doing and then find vendors that can represent that and it’s really much easier since we have connection with the Reading-Berks Guild of Craftsmen and the Old Time Plowboys. A lot of our volunteers come out of that and then join us,” said Richardson.

Despite threatening storm clouds, 561 attendees turned out to sample a simpler way of life. It was a steady stream of people touring the farmhouse to catch demonstrations of lace making, harp music, rug braiding, spinning, and the baking of an onion pie on an open hearth in the kitchen.


“It has onions, potatoes sliced thin and we put some bacon with it and cooked it a little bit and then we put some bacon drippings in it,” said Fran Breuninger. Pointing to a hole in the top crust, she added, “The reason you have the hole in this is because you can pour milk and/or cream through it.”

She said the pie would then go in a Dutch oven with coals on top and on bottom to bake for about an hour and 20 minutes.

There was an even bigger crowd lined up to go through the summer kitchen, eager to sample old-fashioned, home-made, hearth-baked sauerkraut.

“Start with bacon; add the onions and the apples. Sautee them down a little bit, add the sauerkraut, and then I add a little bit of apple cider or apple juice and just a touch of brown sugar for sweetness,” said Becky Manley.

Many of the demonstrations showed people what it was like to live a simple life where you made your own lace, spun wool or flax, made butter, crafted tin, painted hex signs, made baskets, and so much more. It didn’t seem possible to accomplish so many skills without the use of modern technology.

“It’s knowing how to do it and I think that’s important,” said John Ponis, Oley.

Ponis was watching his friend, Keith Richardson, demonstrate blacksmithing. Richardson got into blacksmithing when he studied medieval history.

“It led to my interests in all archaic crafts,” said Richardson. “I like the idea of working in metal in a really primitive way and how they made a lot of the intricate tools, but really simply.”

Bob Bolger, Krumsville, was among the attendees checking out this simpler life.

“They’re making sauerkraut by hand, they’re making homemade butter, I like to look at the old tractors and they like to look at the artsy stuff,” said Bolger of his wife, Betty, and their daughter, Amy.

KU students Erin Joyce, anthropology, and Jenny Passante, sociology, felt attending the festival would benefit their career choices, with the goal of experiencing different cultures. They also thought the pot-bellied pigs were adorable.

Kim and Hoppy Miller, members of the Pot Bellied Pig Clug, brought several of their pets to perform on teeter-totters, toot horns, run through a tunnel, and to just have fun socializing with kids.

Activities for kids included painting faces on pumpkins, crafting colorful baskets, tractor rides, and a performance of pot-bellied pigs wearing bonnets and pearls.

“I like everything you do here and it’s so awesome to be here,” said Maisy Kellum, 7, Kutztown, as she worked on her basket. “Sometimes my grandpa comes and he chops wood.”

Maisy especially loved the crafts and considers herself to be a craftsperson.

Jean and Cliff Huntington, Wayne, N.J., said they’ve been coming to the festival for a number of years. Jean remembered when it was called, Family Day. Now the Huntington’s bring their grandsons, Leaf and Hunter. They like the whole environment and that it’s not commercialized; it’s just natural.

“We go to lots of this kind of stuff and the conversation in the car on the way home is what did you learn today? Because if you didn’t, we’re not going back,” said Rev. Willis Heckler, Topton.

This trip, Heckler and his wife, Sylvia, learned from the cooper even though they already knew something considering themselves old Pennsylvania Dutch.

“To tell you the truth, he helped us in knowing what our wild turkeys are,” said Sylvia as she laughed.

The Hecklers, members of the Heritage Center, talked about what would go in the barrels and how the miller never got paid in dollars, but rather in product. They also learned that the barrels were used to carry lime juice on ships because of the high risk of scurvy from long journeys at sea not to forget the barrels of rum that were on board, too.

In addition to the activities and tours, there was entertainment by Sarajane Williams on the harp and her husband, Ted, on guitar, calling themselves the Williams Duo. There was also Pennsylvania Dutch Music performed by Keith Brintzenhoff, a Kutztown musician.

Robyn Jasko, Kutztown author of “Homesweet Homegrown,” and Patrick Donmoyer, author of “The Friend in Need: An annotated Translation of an Early Folk-Healing Manual,” gave presentations of their works.

Donmoyer had discovered a rare book that someone had attempted to burn in a fire.

“Someone pulled it out of the fire and rescued it. The edges were somewhat tattered; it was a very intriguing piece,” said Donmoyer.

The book turned into a two and a half year project of translating the work of a famous author in Berks County named John George Hohman. This book had pre-dated his most popular works on Pennsylvania Dutch Folk Healing which had not been out of print in over 200 years.

“You’ll find prayers and benedictions that are used for healing and for protection. You’ll find recipes for different rituals and different methods for being able to both protect, to heal, and also to avoid danger,” said Donmoyer.

Donmoyer’s book gave a little more insight to the Pennsylvania Dutch culture from over 200 years ago as did a visit from Mountain Mary, who was known as a faith healer and for her herbs back in the late 1700s. Mountain Mary was portrayed by Ronnie Backenstoe.

For more information about the Pennsylvania German Cultural Heritage Center, visit www.kutztown.edu/pgchc.