The Berks County Parks & Recreation Department celebrated the area's history and transportation heritage through demonstrations, exhibitions, music, lectures, and arts & crafts during its 38th Annual Heritage Festival at the Berks County Heritage Center in Bern Township.
“The annual Heritage Festival is my favorite fall festival. It offers something for everyone from antique farm equipment, children’s tractor pulls, entertainment on the main stage, wagon rides, and tours of the various historic buildings. I particularly like talking to the owners of the old gasoline engines, and of course having one of the famous Pennsylvania Farm Show milkshakes!” said Bill Coughlin, a Berks County photographer.
“We come every year,” said Jasmine Thomas of Bernville. “We like the food, the hayride and the pumpkin patch.”
“I like the hayride best,” agreed her 9-year-old daughter Nevaeh.
Members of the Old Time Plow Boys Club, Inc. drive the hay wagon pulling tractors. The Old Time Plow Boys Club has been dedicated to preserve agricultural heritage since 1990.
Alani Cintron, 5, of Shillington, attended the Heritage Festival with her grandmother for the first time since she was two years old. The Governor Mifflin Kindergartner explained that this is her second hayride.
“I like it (the hayride) because you get to stick your feet out and relax. You get to sit on hay. It’s special.”
Another popular attraction for children is George Esparza with his Wahoo Medicine Show and Phydeaux's Flying Flea Circus. Esparza has been performing at the Heritage Festival for about 10 years.
Gaven Zimmerman, 9, of Mohnton said, “It’s awesome,” of the Flying Flea Circus he participated in with fellow audience volunteer Danielle Andrade, 8, of Temple.
Berks County bike club members Phyl Geist and Thurm Kremser of Leesport regularly ride on the Gring’s Mill trail. They look forward to the festival every year, “We especially like the music and hayride.”
The main stage area featured Berks County’s own Sam Schmidthuber, a Nashville recording artist and winner of the 2019 Josie Music Awards Young Adult Male Vocalist of the Year. This was the first year that Schmidthuber performed at the Heritage Festival.
"Sam grew up working on a farm so he likes the tractors and all that kind of stuff; Sam enjoys supporting his local area and the people that have supported him over the years," said Schmidthuber's manager.
Then, Remington Ryde with Ryan Frankhouser performed, encouraging the audience to sing along to songs like “This Little Light of Mine.” A few songs into their set, the sky darkened and the rain began to fall. The weather didn’t keep the audience from opening their umbrellas and enjoying the band’s rendition of “Tennessee 1949.”
Along with the main stage, music was also performed throughout the festival. Matt Dodd performed Songs and Stories of the Canal Days. And, Butch Imhoff held his Acoustic Road Show Guitar Workshop.
Festival guests learned things like how to churn butter, milk cows, the history of the Lenni Lenape with Native American Historian Darius Puff and displays of metal forging.
Tom Gradwell maked a decorative leaf hook while demonstrating skills. Gradwell has been blacksmithing for 36 years. “I attended Goschenhoppen Folk Festival when I was 6. I joined their apprentice program and began learning the craft with Bill Lowery.”
Sue and Harold Kies of Sizzle Shows invited members of the audience to try their hand at rope twirling. The Kies’ Western theme entertainment also included target whips. Sue held flowers and Harold cracked the whip taking the flower from the stem.
“The sound a whip makes is the whip breaking the sound barrier. The whip travels at 750 miles per hour,” explained Harold.
Performing rope tricks that she learned from her father for 20 years, one of her popular tricks is the “Texas Skip,” a rope trick, made famous by Will Rogers where the performer jumps in and out of a rope’s vertical loop.
During the cake walk, Becky Richards, Recreation Program Supervisor with the Berks County Parks & Recreation Department, lead a group of hopeful cake winning ticket holders around the field. A Cake Walk is a fundraising game similar to musical chairs where the winner receives a cake. Participants purchase a numbered ticket and parade around a path with numbers corresponding to the number of cake walkers. When the music stops, everyone stands on a number. A ticket is drawn and whoever is standing on the number of the pulled ticket wins the cake. The Heritage Festival had two prizes, a cake and a pie.