More than 1,000 from the Kutztown area and beyond stopped by the Pennsylvania German Cultural Heritage Center at Kutztown University for Easter on the Farm on April 13.
The free event featured a wide variety of activities, including two egg hunts, children's barrel car train rides, a petting zoo, and folklife demonstrations.
“This is one of our best attended events,” said Patrick Donmoyer, director of the center. “Lots of community members and their children come out.”
According to Donmoyer, the event has been held at the center for more than two decades.
“We highlight a lot of different aspects of local culture at this event,” Donmoyer added. “Especially the traditions that Pennsylvania Dutch people introduced to this area.”
“Ideas like the Easter Bunny and the idea of decorating eggs,” Donmoyer said, were first introduced to North America by the Pennsylvania Dutch. He added that the first known American image of an Easter Bunny was devised about half an hour north of Kutztown in 1810.
“It was made by a fellow named Conrad Gilbert, originally from Montgomery County but he moved to Schuylkill County, and it was made in Schuylkill County,” Donmoyer said.
Easter on the Farm featured local craftspeople and artisans on-site demonstrating traditional fiber arts, hearth cooking, paper crafts and egg scratching. Terry Berger offered dandelion greens and bacon dressing in the summer kitchen and treats were available in the Farmhouse Kitchen. In the Farmhouse parlor and dining room were Easter decorations, including displays of Peter Fritsch's elaborately decorated eggs, feather trees and scratched eggs.
In the Freyberger School House was an exhibition on Pennsylvania Dutch powwowing and ritual traditions of Lent and Easter. Children could listen to stories by local authors Mary Laub and Rachel Yoder, as well as dialect music played by Keith Brintzenhoff.
Around 2:30 p.m., just before the second egg hunt of the day, 1,000 had already attended the event, Donmoyer said.
Jason Garcia, Kutztown, said he tries to attend the event every year with his son, Alex, age 5.
“It’s a great event for the community,” said Garcia. “It’s a great time. The weather’s beautiful, and it’s a perfect thing to do on a perfect spring day.”
Alex participated in the 2:30 p.m. egg hunt, which he said was his favorite part of the event. He joined a few hundred other children who raced for eggs and prizes.
“It’s good,” Alex said, when asked what he thought of the event. He returned from the egg hunt with around 25 eggs.
Easter on the Farm is one of three major events the center hosts in a year, the other two being Christmas on the Farm and Heemet Fescht in the fall, Donmoyer said. He added that the center focuses on the cultural traditions which tie into each event.
“We aim to preserve the culture and history and language of the Pennsylvania Dutch, but we focus especially on traditions,” said Donmoyer. “We think that, especially the traditions associated with Easter, are things that a lot of people partake of but they may not think about where those traditions come from. We do our very best to help people understand the origins of some of these traditions, and also to find ways that they can incorporate those traditions in the present-day.”
“For instance, a lot of people decorate eggs in the home, but not everybody knows that if you get the skins of yellow onions and you boil them, you can produce a brilliant orange-to-dark red dye,” Donmoyer said. “People can go home and teach their kids about that. They can take these types of traditions with them.”