Nothing tops the good old-fashion summer fun at the Kutztown Folk Festival in Kutztown, PA. This family-oriented festival offers over 200 demonstrating craftsmen, 2,500 beautiful hand-made quilts, folklife demonstrations, six stages of entertainment, lots of children’s activities, and the best Pennsylvania Dutch food anywhere. Affordable family fun at the Kutztown Folk Festival! – July 1-9, 2017.
One of America’s most celebrated festivals, the Kutztown Festival is the oldest continuing folklife event in the nation. Drawing well over 100,000 visitors, the Festival features folk art and crafts by 200 craftsmen, the largest exhibition and sale of authentic Pennsylvania Dutch quilts in the country, folklore and folklife programs, six stages of continuous entertainment, music, a wide array of children’s activities, and the best Pennsylvania Dutch food found anywhere. Visitors are serenaded by strolling musicians, children are fascinated by the puppets in the barnyard theatre, and everyone enjoys the foot-stomping Pennsylvania Dutch hoedown dancing.
Traditions and skills that have been passed down in families over many generations are found in the folk art and crafts at the festival, including fine furniture, miniatures, pottery making, clothing, musical instruments, hand-painted art, iron ornaments, weavings, brooms, cut paper art known as “scherenschnitte,” Pennsylvania German calligraphic writing called “fraktur”, beeswax candles and more. The exhibition and sale of nearly 2,500 beautiful, hand-made Pennsylvania German motif quilts (all made in America) is one of the most popular events at the festival. An art show in itself, these masterpieces represent countless hours of dedicated work by quilters in the region. From 100 outstanding quilts, twenty-four are awarded top honors, and four are designated as the best of the show.
This year's festival will showcase five unique wineries in a mini-wine tour. And the Pennsylvania German Cultural Heritage Center at Kutztown University will feature an expanded folklife display and demonstration area related to the local Mennonite culture.
The quilt auction on the second Saturday of the festival is the highlight of the show. There is music in the air – everywhere! – at the Kutztown Folk Festival. From folk singing and country fiddling to the sounds of brass bands, to the gentler sounds of Mennonite hymns, the festival grounds are alive with music. Songs in the Pennsylvania Dutch dialect introduce visitors to traditional music of the region. Visitors join in the fun at sing-alongs and even join in a country music square dance “free for all”Wednesday and Friday evenings. The Festival is a kids’ celebration too. There is plenty of real, live, interactive entertainment that provides lots of fun. The younger set love the puppet barnyard theatre with its goings-on around Farmer Brown’s farm, the petting zoo where they can see, touch, and feed dozens of farm animals, the traditional children’s folk songs, and the kids’ sing-alongs. Good news for parents, too. Children 12 years of age and under are admitted free of charge when accompanied by adults. There’s much more at the Kutztown Festival. History comes alive in folklife seminars with speakers on topics ranging from religion and family life to clothing and folk medicine and historical reenactments The colorful 4th of July parade is one of the best in the area, with all of the Festival’s craftsmen, entertainers, and presenters participating. And, from one end of the festival grounds to the other, there seems to be no end to meals – from snacks to full course all-you-can eat dinners.
Quilting has roots going all
the way back to ancient Egypt, primarily as a technique used to make
clothing. Historians say that European soldiers adopted quilted clothing
from Muslim cultures during the Middle Ages. It was not until the 17th
century that quilting became a popular folk art in England and France
when beautifully decorated pieces were made for draperies and bedding.
The first quilting in America was done by wealthy women who stitched
cut out shapes to background fabric for decoration (appliqué).
It wasn't until the mid 1880s that ordinary women had time to quilt
or access to affordable textiles. Although its role in early Colonial
and frontier life is largely myth, quilting has taken a prominent place
in American tradition.
No one better expresses that tradition than the Mennonite and Amish women of the Pennsylvania Dutch Country where quilting serves not only a practical purpose, but also as a form of entertainment. The quilting bee, a time for these women to get together to visit and relax with one another, has evolved into a business for some, supplementing family incomes all over Lancaster and Berks Counties. Beautiful in their simplicity, Amish quilts are exquisite statements of the frugality so fundamental to the culture. Their sophisticated approach to design and color has set a standard revered by craftspeople everywhere.
The Pennsylvania Dutch are actually descendants of the early German speaking settlers who here prior to the War of 1812. Although the Pennsylvania Mennonites are Pennsylvania German, all Pennsylvania German are not Mennonites. The Amish are a sub-sect of the Mennonites.) More than 2,500 traditional quilts, all made locally and by hand, are featured in the huge quilt barn, one of the Festival's busiest and most popular attractions.
Quilts are accepted for the festival through a competitive juried process, representing the finest, authentic Mennonite skill and craftsmanship. All quilts, ranging from king size to crib size, are available for purchase, and a helpful, knowledgeable staff is available to assist visitors. The "best of the best" of these magnificent quilts are sold at auction on the second Saturday of the Festival, when quilt lovers come from around the world to bid for the 24 prize-winners. Visitors may also submit sealed bids on the quilts throughout the week.
Quilting demonstrations and quilting bees are held throughout the 9-day festival. Young and old alike enjoy contributing to the festival "visitors quilt", created entirely by people attending the show. In addition, the Festival has earned a reputation as a place to purchase the finest quilt fabric and to find exquisite traditional miniature framed quilts.
Admission, $14, seniors $13, juniors (13-17) $5, children under 12 are free. Information: 1-888-674-6136, or website.