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52nd Annual Goschenhoppen Folk Festival
Written by Sadie Butcher and Esther Mack, Correspondents
2018-08-16

            Folk life from the 18th century came back to life as volunteers and visitors

Michael Fox, 8, of Pottstown turns the handle of a vintage

clothes ringer as he runs an item through it at the clothing

washing demonstration.

celebrated the 52nd annual Historian Authentic Pennsylvania Dutch Folk Festival on August 10th-11th held on Henry Antes Plantation. Craftsmen and traditionalists were featured throughout the festival grounds so that the public could learn about and experience Pennsylvania-German culture from the 18th and 19th centuries.

            Back in 1964, a small group of people that became known as the first Goschenhoppen Historians came together in order to maintain the traditions from the first German settlers. The Germans inhabited the northern half of the Perkiomen Creek and tributaries in Montgomery County.

            The Pennsylvania Germans that emigrated and inhabited Southeastern

Erik Shearer cuts tobacco leaves which he uses to 

make cigars at the cigar-making demonstration.

Pennsylvania left their home country to seek religious freedom and to escape a social structure that would have kept them at a low status. Many of them arrived in the colonies as indentured servants, a person who signs a contract to labor under someone else for as long as 10 years, the price of their passage across the Atlantic. Following the agreed-upon period, they were free to pursue their own interests and begin a new life from scratch. That often meant buying land and building a farm.

            Due to the nature of the newly established colonies, everything had to be either made by hand (Gemacht Von Hand) or purchased. In the 18th century colonies, many items were not readily available and if they were available, they would be offered in far-away cities like Philadelphia, and would be costly.

            To solve this problem, the Pennsylvania Dutch made the majority of their everyday things by hand. Goods such as pottery, clothing, tools and household appliances were all handmade.

            Bob Wood, a member of the Goschenhoppen Historical Society, says: "They respected the stuff they made and the stuff they got from others. You took pride

Each day, at the annual two-day event festival, the Grand

Fantastical Parade is held and reenactors march through

the festival grounds carrying representative items of their

trade or craft.

in the thing that was made . . . If something broke, they fixed it, out of respect for the thing, in addition to their inability to buy a new one."

            Countless artifacts have been found on the Plantation grounds, including pottery, buttons, pail handles, and more items that had once been essential to daily life.

            The Mennonite, Catholic, Lutheran, Schwenkfelder, German Reformed and Dunkard communities had settled in the Goschenhoppen area in the 18th century. As time progressed, the people learned to use the material they had in more efficient ways.

            By the 1830's a building boom occurred and structures such as houses, schools, churches and factories were created and completed. This all occurred due to the abundance of coal resources near the area.  Bricks were made of red clay, but the coal was needed in order to burn and mold different things. Bob Wood explains: "Because walls were three bricks thick, thousands of bricks were used for even a small house, while Keelor's church in Obelisk, built in 1834, took 83,532 bricks."

            Although these early settlers came long ago, their traditions and cultures live on through the Goschenhoppen Historians' efforts, culminating in this two-day festival.

            Hundreds of volunteers of all ages bring back the past in order to create old-fashioned fun.


 

 

 

 

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