An estimated 350 visitors experienced early Pa German farm life, watching demonstrations and participating in old-time farm activities at the 6th annual Historic Dreibelbis Farm Festival near the village of Virginville on Aug. 24.
Hosted by the Dreibelbis Farm Historical Society — a non-profit organization whose mission is to preserve and protect the Historic Dreibelbis Farm and to make it available to the public for educational, historical, and environmental purposes — the Farm Festival featured old-time tools, farming activities and old-fashioned children’s games.
“We want people to appreciate what life was like years ago, what it was like to live on a farm and we want to keep that heritage alive so people understand how attached we are to the land, how much farming is in all of our roots. This is how many of our ancestors in this area lived,” said Janine Dreibelbis of the Dreibelbis Farm Historical Society.
Her husband Mark Dreibelbis is the 9th generation Dreibelbis to own the Historic Dreibelbis Farm. He founded and serves as president of the Dreibelbis Farm Historical Society that maintains the property and runs events like the Farm Festival.
“They get an appreciation for how hard settlers worked to homestead and carve a home out of the wilderness, an appreciation for the history of farm machinery, farm life and just the lifestyle of what it was like in the years gone by,” said Mark. “What’s interesting is that the farm was formed in 1778 and was farmed up until the 1990s so it bridges a wide range. In fact, we have attempted to preserve multiple generations. The house is Victorian, 1868, but we have implements and equipment from all the way back to 1778 so we have displayed items from various generations throughout history. It’s kind of neat because it tells a whole story and the progression of the ages.”
Mark said the farmland was originally owned by William Penn, then deeded to Daniel Boone’s uncles and then it was acquired by the Merkel family. Ancestor Jacob B. Dreibelbis married a Merkel daughter and acquired the land from his father-in-law.
Much of that history can been seen in the farm’s historic buildings. Boards and beams of the unpainted tractor shed are believed to be from the farm’s original log house built during the Revolutionary War.
Tours were offered of the Victorian brick farmhouse built by Joel and Elizabeth Dreibelbis in the 1860s. The original wallpaper, carpets and woodwork remain the same as they were 150 years ago.
“The house tours are a big feature of the farm because it displays many facets of farm life,” said Mark.
Attendees could enjoy a scenic ride on a horse-drawn wagon by Steve Burkholder of Kutztown and experience early transportation along wooded trails and past flowering fields of the 180-acre farm that has been owned by the Dreibelbis family for more than 240 years.
Visitors could see bird houses being made and a blacksmith in action, meet a beekeeper and see live honey bees, make their own candles, taste sauerkraut or eat corn on the cob freshly cooked over an open fire.
“Everybody that is demonstrating here is volunteering their day. Everybody who is working here is volunteering their day so we’re very appreciative of all of that. It’s a community effort and we’re very pleased with the support we’ve had to do it,” said Janine.
About 100 volunteers and 50 demonstrators participated in the Farm Festival. Demonstrations included spinning, doily crocheting, basket weaving, butter making, weaving, broom making and quilting.
“We keep trying to expand the number of exhibitors we have. New this year we have an active beehive, reptiles, farm equipment demonstrations and the old-time dairying. It just keeps growing,” said Janine. “We’ve gotten a lot of good support. We get good feedback from the people that come.”
Ned Dresher of the Dreibelbis Farm Historical Society greeted the estimated 350 visitors.
“I’m finding that people not only like seeing all of the antique equipment, they seem to really appreciate that someone is trying to preserve and take care of things from the past and that’s enjoyable to hear,” said Dresher.
There were also animals visiting the farm, including a cow, goat, quail and chickens. Also, Venom Institute brought along snakes, turtles and toads native to the region.
Presentations and live music performances included Lenape stories by Ruth Py, historical talk by historian Dave Fox, and music by the Dolpehock Sanger Choir, Blue Mountain Shadow, Keith Brintzenhoff, Druckenmillers and Blue Grass Group.
Madeline Boyer, 10, Kutztown, and her sister Achaia, 6, enjoyed all of the activities at the Farm Festival. Achaia particularly liked the Angora rabbits.
“I liked everything here,” said Madeline. “We got to take a tour of the house and we also got to taste the butter.”
Berks County Dairy Princess Stephanie Younker of Bernville played dairy trivia with children and offered recipes that use dairy. When asked what recipe she’d recommend, Younker said her taco salad because it has three servings of dairy.
According to the Farm Historical Society, the farm fields along the Maiden Creek are the site of a Native American settlement. Displays included handcrafted beaded necklaces by a Lenape descendant, as well as Native American artifacts.
The railroad is also part of the farm’s history. Rick Keller of Fleetwood brought his model train operated by his grandson, John, age 7.
“Everybody loves trains,” said Keller. “The train ran back there (pointing to the far side of the Dreibelbis farm field) on their property.”
The model train circled a diorama of the Dreibelbis Farm including a model of the Dreibelbis house, barn and other outbuildings. On a nearby table, Keller displayed his model of the Virginville train station (one sign depicted the original village name Virginsville).
“It’s a great place to come and visit. There’s so much to learn. It’s great for local people,’ said Keller. “The farm has been preserved. It’s different. You don’t see many places like this.”
The Dreibelbis Farm Historical Society hosts events throughout the year.
“We’ve expanded the number of events we have. This summer we were open the 2nd Sunday in June, July and again in September for house tours. We do the ice harvest in winter, the spring peeper walk and a fall hayride,” said Janine Dreibelbis. “We have a lot going on.”
For more information, visit https://www.dreibelbisfarm.org. To schedule a tour or to volunteer, contact Mark Dreibelbis at 610-488-7896 or DreibelbisFarm@gmail.com. The Historic Dreibelbis Farm is located at 356 Hard Hill Road, Hamburg, PA 19526 (GPS Address).