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Nine-day Kutztown Folk Festival returns for 70th year

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The Kutztown Folk Festival is the oldest continuously operated folk life festival in America, and in its 70th year, it shows no signs of slowing down.

The nine-day event, running June 29 to July 7, continues to draw visitors from all over the world, entertaining families while providing insight into the traditions of the Pennsylvania Dutch and their way of life.

Filled with traditional Pennsylvania Dutch food, music, America’s largest quilt sale and craftsmen and folk artists from around the world, this year’s festival brings new excitement with New Paltz, a folk band from Germany.

The band will make its official U.S. debut at the Kutztown Folk Festival, performing once a day on the Hoedown stage.

New Paltz performs songs in Pennsylvania German and their local Palatine dialect. The group’s music discusses the change since tens of thousands of Palatine people went on a journey to Pennsylvania some 300 years ago.

German filmmaker Christian Schega and his film, “The Roots of PA Dutch,” will play at the festival’s quilt barn.

Schega’s documentary covers the roots of Pennsylvania Dutch culture and language in the Palatine and the U.S., according to a Kutztown Folk Festival press release.

“Originating in 1950, the Festival was started by three Franklin & Marshal folklife studies professors whose focus was the Pennsylvania Dutch (PA German) culture. Their mission was to share the PA Dutch culture with the rest of the world through food, crafts, folklife demonstrations, seminars and pageantry,” said Steve Sharadin, executive director of the festival.

“The three-day event was an instant success as it quickly grew to its current nine-day format attracting over 100,000 visitors each year from around the world.”

A limestone foundation, brick hearth baking surface and red clay tile roof makes for one of the oldest ovens in Pennsylvania. The oven, which can hold up to 60 loaves, can produce eight to 12 “bakes” a day, making sure visitors can get enough freshly baked bread to take home.

Verna Dietrich, her children and grandchildren provide meats and baked good for the festival year in and year out. Following the tried and true Pennsylvania Dutch traditions, all the meats in Dietrich’s market are freshly grown on their own farm in Krumsville by her sons, and baked goods are made according to generations-old Pennsylvania Dutch recipes.

No event at the festival is bigger than the Quilt Auction. Held the last Saturday of every festival, 24 quilts are selected as finalists from the 2,500 that are made for the festival each year. These finalists are then auctioned off on the main stage. The 2,500-plus traditional handmade quilts and wall hangings will be on display and for sale during the whole festival. The prices for quilts usually range from $600 to $1,200.

The festival also has lots of information about traditional Pennsylvania Dutch life with 19th century farming and food demonstrations, traditional hex sign painting shows, seminars on dialect, the origins of covered bridges, baking secrets and even an Amish wedding.

“In addition to expanding the numbers of days the event is held, children have also been a more important focus. As in creating hands-on, but yet authentic experiences such as hex sign painting, a one-room school house lesson, and a stage with continuous entertainment just for them,” stated Sharadin.

The festival is located at 450 Wentz St., Kutztown. A weekly pass is available for $24; daily prices are $14 for adults, $13 for senior citizens age 55-plus, $5 for students and free for children under 12. The festival is open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. during the week and 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. on the weekends.


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