Heemet Fescht celebrated Pennsylvania German folklife at the historic Sharadin Farmstead on the Kutztown University campus on Sept. 28.
“Heemet is the PA Dutch word for home so this event highlights all the best aspects of coming down home on the farm,” said Patrick Donmoyer, director of Pennsylvania German Cultural Heritage Center. “We have live music, good things to eat, lots of artisans and crafts people showing their work and showing local traditions. We have speakers, authors, and many different local people sharing what this unique region has to offer and especially highlighting the culture of the PA Dutch.”
Held at the Pennsylvania German Cultural Heritage Center at KU, the event featured Pennsylvania German folklife demonstrations, wagon rides, children’s barrel rides, live farm animals, kid's activities and crafts such as pumpkin decorating, folk music and food.
“For people who are local, it’s an opportunity to celebrate this region that all of us participate in, an opportunity to celebrate things that make this area unique,” said Donmoyer.
For people who are visitors to Kutztown or new to the area, such as University students who were seen attending the event, Donmoyer hopes that they understand a little bit more about the local culture after coming to this event.
“They understand one of things all human beings have in common, no matter where you are from, is that we like to have a good time and this is how we do it,” said Donmoyer.
In the barnyard, Mike and Linda Hertzog of the Blue Mountain Trio, Ed Goldberg and the Odessa Klezmer Band entertained the crowd with local favorites. In the Sharadin farmhouse, Sarajane Williams of PlanetHarp played harp music.
Even attendees could join in making music. Local musician Butch Imhoff set up a Make Your Own Music area where he encouraged people, all ages, to try playing a few chords on a guitar.
“I’ve been doing this for 20 years and I enjoy watching people’s faces light up in doing something they didn’t know they could do,” said Imhoff. “I hope that maybe I can plant some seeds of music. People often wonder what it is like to play a guitar and if I hand someone a guitar for the very first time, show them a couple easy chords, maybe it will light a little fire of music.”
He even has a few small guitars to give children a chance to try playing in hopes of sparking an interest in music.
“Music has been a life-long love of mine. Guitars have been there throughout my whole life, in the good times and the bad times,” Imhoff said. Regarding the event, he said, “Family is everything and this is a great family event.”
Local authors also showcased their books. Dori Hoch of Blandon, a children’s book author, displayed her Bunny Brothers series as well as her One-room Schoolhouse series.
Inside the one-room schoolhouse, author and musician Dave Kline lead a children’s storytime reading his book about finding local animals, from A to Z.
“Welcome to the schoolhouse. We’re learning about animals you can see outside,” Kline said to the children sitting in antique school desks.
He asked them to identify the animals in the pictures, using humor to share facts about local animals.
“Thank you for sharing storytime with me. Get outside and enjoy it as much as you can and find these creatures,” said Kline at the conclusion of the book.
Historical and cultural live demonstrations included hearth cooking, wood working, tin smithing and fiber art and more. The Reading-Berks Guild of Craftsmen showed guests traditional crafts of the Pennsylvania Germans.
Attendee Gloria Toner from Coopersburg enjoyed the speakers and demonstrations, and even found a few books of interest.
“Although I don’t speak PA Dutch, my parents did and I wanted to learn more,” said Toner. “I really enjoyed learning more this afternoon at the Heemet Fescht.”
Toner was later seen at the Kutztown Strand for the showing of the documentary “Hiwee wie Driwwe,” a film that explores the PA Dutch culture and language, its history and the Palatinate region in Germany. Her family roots can be traced back to that region in the 1700s.
Among the attendees exploring the farmstead were KU President Dr. Kenneth Hawkinson and his wife, Ann Marie, along with their dog, Winnie.
“We just love to come out to these festivals throughout the year, where people from all walks of life come together to share in our culture and the history of the region, the wonderful food and animals,” said Hawkinson. “Just all kinds of things that help us remember our roots.”