A Mennonite cottage industry flourishes in the Kutztown area

Patrick J. Donmoyer, Pennsylvania German Heritage Center director.

Heemet Fescht, a traditional celebration of Pennsylvania Dutch culture, went virtual in a harvest season marked by the COVID-19 crisis.

Normally held at the Pennsylvania German Cultural Heritage Center at Kutztown University, Heemet Fescht streamed Pennsylvania Dutch music, art and culture for six hours Saturday on the center’s Facebook page.

Host Patrick Donmoyer, folklorist and center director, explained to audiences in Berks County and Germany that Heemet means "home" in the Pennsylvania Dutch dialect.

The festival celebrates “a cultural sense of place,” Donmoyer said, focusing on things held in common among friends of the dialect.

Donmoyer did a segment on the life and times of the late renowned Berks County barn star painter Milton Hill of Virginville.

Hill’s barn stars, sometimes called Hex signs, are still evident on barns throughout Perry and Windsor Townships. Some of his folk art is still on the walls of the Deitsch Eck restaurant in Lenhartsville, formerly the Lenhartsville Hotel, which Hill operated.

Dr. Michael Werner performed music and recited poems from his home in Ober-Olm, Germany.

His performances in the dialect included Johnny Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues,” which he re-titled “Reddin Bressen Blues.” and Maya Angelou’s poem “Still I Rise.”

Werner is well known in the Berks County Pennsylvania Dutch community as the publisher of “Hiwwe wie Driwwe,” a newsletter in the dialect he founded 25 years ago.

Berks County singer-songwriter Dave Kline performed traditional folk music from Berks County, Germany and Austria.

From Terry Berger’s Dutch Kitchen, chef Berger served up traditional autumn goodies. Rachel Yoder showcased her Pennsylvania Dutch art.

And Chris LaRose and Doug Madenford, performing as Broken Spokes, explored Pennsylvania Dutch history through story and song.

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