The Folksy Side of the Pennsylvania Dutch at Kutztown Folk Festival
Pie Eating contest at the Kutztown Folk Festival

Thinking down home for Independence Day this year? Pie eating contests, quilting bees, and Civil War re-enactments? Organizers of the annual Kutztown Folk Festival call their event a celebration of folklore, food, fun and family. After nearly 70 years of highlighting daily life in the Pennsylvania Dutch Country region, the festival is putting an even greater emphasis on family-oriented events with folk art exhibits, crafts, live entertainment and treats from the region that will appeal to young and old alike.

New this year are more interactive activities for kids and adult visitors. The festival will feature five different stages with live folk music and dancing, Mennonite hymn singing and folklore presentations. In addition to serious workshops on local culture, visitors can watch an Amish wedding or a re-enactment of a 19th century hanging.

Special events include the Lester Miller Family Dancers (they do hoedowns), a 19th century brass band, and a fun Fourth of July parade fondly known as “The Hokiest Parade in America.” Children have their very own Farmyard Theater with singalongs, storytelling, puppet shows, a magician, clowns and a ventriloquist. Kids will also enjoy the enlarged Children’s Petting Zoo, where they and their parents can feed and interact with friendly farm animals.

In addition, families will find craft and play areas, pony rides and a 19th century carousel that is turned by live horses. Traditional games are also featured along with a hay maze and the Hex Express-a train fashioned from 55 gallon drums and pulled by a tractor.

The Quilt Barn is where more than 2,500 handmade quilts will be on display, available for purchase during the festival. Demonstrations and quilting bees will be held for visitors interested in learning more about the quilting process and all visitors are encouraged to contribute to the festival’s visitors quilt. Other demonstrations include pottery making, woodcarving, weaving and hex sign painting, an art unique to Pennsylvania Dutch Country.

In between all of these wonderful activities, visitors can try an assortment of local favorite dishes such as shoo-fly pie and country chicken dinners. A highlight of the festival are the Pennsylvania Dutch family style dinners, demonstrations of the bread oven, and the Farmers Market. Kids will love the festival’s many sweet treats, including strawberry shortcake, funnel cakes and ice cream. It’s also a place to try traditional “root drinks,” such as Root Beer, Birch Beer, and Sarsaparilla.

Travelers planning to stay for several days will find an assortment of lodging choices including a few Hampton Inn hotels nearby that are partnering with the festival. We liked the Comfort Inn Midway is located at Exit 16 – I-78, Bethel, PA 19507 not far from a trailhead to the Appalachian Trail, if there are hikers in the family. It offers guests a free breakfast in addition to free local phone calls, weekday newspapers and coffee. The inn also boasts an indoor pool, exercise room and video game room, perfect for kids who want to continue having fun after a day at the festival. If you’re traveling with pets, this hotel has a limit of two per room and charges a $20/night per pet fee.

Set your reminder to book a room soon: The top value Kutztown Folk Festival will take place from July 1- July 9, 2017. The region is a bargain and so are festival admission fees. A one-day adult pass is $14, $5 for ages 13-17, and younger kids go free. To purchase tickets and learn more about the event, visit the Kutztown Festival website or call 888/674-6136.

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