Experience the best of PA Dutch culture at the Kutztown Folk Festival

Founded in 1950, the Kutztown Folk Festival is the oldest continuously operated folklife festival in America. Generations of families, artists, musicians, craftsmen, quilters, entertainers, scholars, and purveyors of iconic food and food experiences are drawn to a festival recognized nationally for its authentic Pennsylvania German culture.

The Kutztown Folk Festival is a Winner in the eyes of many, including a Winner in the 2024 USA TODAY 10Best Readers’ Choice Travel Award Contest for Best Cultural Festival. For several years, the festival has ranked in the Top Tier of this category.

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Naturally, food is a big draw for all ages! PA Dutch Foodie favorites like funnel cake, apple dumplings, corn pie, pot pie, or shoefly pie are found everywhere on the fairgrounds, including one reservation-only food experience called Country Kitchen or the popular Ox Roast. Near the Ox Roast, close to the College Blvd. Gate of the Folk Festival, visitors will find Fresh Fest Market. Healthier food options, local craft beers, and specially crafted cocktails prepared with local ingredients are typical fare in this area.

Food is not the only draw—so is music, five stages of entertainment, the Seminar Stage, the Children’s Petting Zoo, the Antique Barn, the Lester Miller Family Dancers, authentic folklife demonstrations by traditional craftsmen, and the Quilt Barn. This list doesn’t begin to capture all there is to do and acts to be seen and experienced during the nine days.

The World-Famous Quilt Barn houses approximately 1200 traditional quilts ahead of the Annual Quilt & Barn Star Auction. This year, the Auction will be held on Saturday, July 6, at 12:00 noon, on the Main Stage. According to Cyndi Hershey, Quilt Education and Development Director, “All styles of quilts are welcome—both rich traditional, as well as fresh modern ones”. Queen and King bed quilts, baby quilts, holiday quilts, and quilted wall hangings are typically exhibited for visitors and auction bidders.

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Hershey shares that demonstrations of hand-quilting will continue, and new this year will be demonstrations of machine-piecing, applique, and quilting. Education, after all, is an essential part of the Quilt Barn experience. “We offered our first quilt classes this winter with a variety of topics at the Kutztown Historical Society. Attendees seemed very engaged and offered positive feedback. We hope to offer classes in the fall and in other locations.” For quilt information, visit: kutztownfestival.com/quilts.

Culture, entertainment, and education are integrated seamlessly throughout the festival. On the Seminar Stage, you may find these features coming together in a Liar’s Contest, an American Folk Tradition, or a PA Dutch Language Contest, or even a student Essay Contest. A solid scholarship side emerges on the Seminar Stage from daily presentations, for example, on the History of the PA Dutch, the History of the Folk Fest, Pow-Wowing, or the History of Barn Stars—all researched and presented by local published authorities.

Traditional demonstrations are part of the daily schedule. One such demonstration involves Eric Claypool, a second-generation folk artist who is native to Berks County. In fact, Eric, Patrick Donmoyer, Director of the Pennsylvania German Cultural Heritage Center, and Andrew Shirk paint the Barn Stars that are auctioned off on the second Saturday. Eric, whose father painted hex signs starting in 1964, painted his first hex sign in 1979 and has since painted over 100 barns.

The event runs 9 am-6 pm daily. Ticket options include daily, weekly, mid-week, weekend, Veteran, and Student. Admission is free for children 12 and under. Advance ticket purchase is recommended, so purchase tickets securely online at kutztownfolkfestival.thundertix.com.

With so many traditions, activities, and experiences for all ages, the Kutztown Folk Festival keeps old customs alive, while building new memories for returning and new visitors.

Located at the Kutztown, PA Fairgrounds, 450 Wentz Street, the nine-day event will run this year from June 29 through July 7 for its 74th year. kutztownfestival.com

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Berks Weekly
Berks Weekly
Berks Weekly is an independent and locally owned digital newspaper covering the City of Reading and Berks County. Subscribe today: berksweekly.com/subscribe
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