Farm Fes­ti­val gives glimpse into agri­cul­tural past

Hun­dreds filled the farm and lands of His­toric Dreibel­bis Farm with roots that trace to preRevo­lu­tion­ary times

Northern Berks Patriot Item - - FRONT PAGE - By Kolleen Long For Dig­i­tal First Me­dia

Sunny, benev­o­lent skies pre­vailed over the 2017 Farm Fes­ti­val at the His­toric Dreibel­bis Farm, Virginville, as the prop­erty wel­comed vis­i­tors on Satur­day, Aug. 26, Hun­dreds of guests and dozens of vol­un­teers filled the farm and lands, with roots that trace to pre-Rev­o­lu­tion­ary times.

ireet­ing each vis­i­tor as they en­tered by prop­erty was Ned Dresher, vice pres­i­dent of the farm’s his­tor­i­cal so­ci­ety. Like many of the vol­un­teers, Dresher was dressed in pe­riod cloth­ing in­clud­ing sus­penders, a cloth shirt and broad-rimmed straw hat. Women vol­un­teers sported flo­ral dresses and aprons and soft cloth hats.

As he talked to new­com­ers, Dresher asked where they came from, en­gaged chil­dren in con­ver­sa­tion and pointed out high­lights of the day he thought each per­son might en­joy, from tours of the farm build­ing to wagon rides and games for the chil­dren.

Mean­while, the sound of singing from the nearby red barn drew guests fur­ther into the prop­erty. In the top level of the barn, the Dollpe­hock Sanger Chor per­formed tra­di­tional hymns in Ger­man in the early hours of the fes­ti­val. Later in the day, the Blue Moun­tain Strings mu­si­cians played in­stru­ments in a hol­low down the farm lane. Other mu­si­cal per­form­ers in­cluded Keith Brintzen­hoff and Druck­en­millers Blue Grass Group.

In the lower level of the barn, dairy roy­alty in­vited young­sters to gen­tly pet two young Guern-

sey bulls. Malaina Rhoads, a Lil Dairy Miss who shows cows at fairs, of­fered bovine jokes to guests. Be­side her, Dairy Am­bas­sador Macken­zie Blatt pro­vided in­for­ma­tion on the an­i­mals.

Sev­eral lo­ca­tions around the barn, which was built in 1908 af­ter a fire de­stroyed a pre­vi­ous struc­ture, dis­played an­tique farm equip­ment. Ev­ery­where they looked, vis­i­tors saw nods to the past.

The prop­erty was ob­tained by the Penn fam­ily in 1732, was con­nected to Daniel Boone (through his un­cle, Ge­orge) and even­tual came to the fam­ily of John Ja­cob Dreibel­bis, an im­mi­grant and but­ton­maker who ar­rived in Philadel­phia in the 1700s.

The farm was owned by mem­bers of the Dreibel­bis fam­ily, in­clud­ing farm­ers, school­teach­ers and mer­chants, un­til 1998, when de­scen­dent Parker Dreibel­bis moved to a nurs­ing home. A lawyer saw the his­toric value of the prop­erty and worked with other fam­ily mem­bers, who even­tu­ally formed a non­profit group, the Dreibel­bis Farm His­tor­i­cal So­ci­ety.

As he sur­veyed the crowds en­ter­ing Satur­day’s fes­ti­val, so­ci­ety pres­i­dent Mark Dreibel­bis noted that the weather was not so co­op­er­a­tive five days prior, when winds reach­ing 70 mph snapped or up­rooted 11 trees on the prop­erty.

“We were ham­mered,” Dreibel­bis ad­mit­ted, “that was a ma­jor storm that rolled through.”

Thank­fully, he added, a crew of vol­un­teers rolled in and, with the as­sis­tance of Bob An­drews Tree Ser­vice, cleared fes­ti­val ar­eas in plenty of time for Satur­day’s event.

“We have more mu­sic in the lineup this year, and we have an in­tern from Read­ing Area Com­mu­nity College do­ing a pre­sen­ta­tion on women’s role in the house­hold,” he noted, point­ing out a young woman with a dis­play set up along­side the farm­house.

Vis­i­tors could browse tools and gad­gets that em­pha­sized Amer­i­can in­ge­nu­ity, watch demon­stra­tions by black­smiths and tin­smiths and view a dis­play of kitchen and gar­den­ing tools. A na­ture trail was also avail­able as were tours of the milk house, butcher house and cream­ery.

Chil­dren were wel­come to par­tic­i­pate in all ac­tiv­i­ties at the farm fes­ti­val. Those tak­ing a colo­nial­times quiz learned sur­pris­ing facts, in­clud­ing pewter plates were once cheaper than alu­minum ones and lob­ster was con­sid­ered a sub­stan­dard food, with laws in place re­strict­ing its overuse in feed­ing pris­on­ers.

More ac­tive op­tions in­cluded wooden puz­zles, wax-can­dle dip­ping and an archery range spon­sored by Woody’s Sport­ing Goods, Wern­ersville. Some chil­dren played in colo­nial game demon­stra­tions or lis­tened to Le­nape sto­ry­telling.

The fes­ti­val has al­ways hon­ored the Na­tive Amer­i­can roots of the prop­erty. The Sau­con In­di­ans were the first known res­i­dents of the land, and many of their ar­ti­facts have been found. New this year at the fes­ti­val, an In­dian Trader stand was set up at one cor­ner of the barn. In­side the struc­ture, some of the found ar­ti­facts were on dis­play.

Ven­dors dis­played wares for sale in keep­ing with the his­toric era. Op­tions in­cluded wooden bas­kets cre­ated with in­tri­cate scroll­saw cuts, plus col­or­ful quilts and del­i­cate doilies, each rep­re­sent­ing hours of work by the artists.

Tours of the Dreibel­bis farm house, which is on the Na­tional Reg­istry of His­toric Land­marks, are a pop­u­lar op­tion each year, with guests sign­ing up as they ar­rived for a time slot later in the day. The brick struc­ture dates back to 1868 and re­tains many orig­i­nal fea­tures, in­clud­ing orig­i­nal wall­pa­per, or­nate wood- and plas­ter­work, fur­nish­ings owned by the orig­i­nal fam­ily and a carved wooden banis­ter reach­ing from the first floor to the at­tic. Do­cents, dressed in cos­tumes rang­ing from colo­nial times to the 1940s, pointed out items of in­ter­est while weav­ing in sto­ries from the fam­ily his­tory. Among the guides were Dreibel­bis de­scen­dents Jean Davis and Eleanor Dreibel­bis.

“Our mis­sion is to try and keep ev­ery­thing the way it is, to main­tain it or make it ex­actly the way it was be­fore,” Eleanor told groups wait­ing their turn to en­ter the house. “It’s a big job, but lit­tle by lit­tle we’re mak­ing it what it used to be.”

For more in­for­ma­tion on the His­toric Dreibel­bis Farm, visit the so­ci­ety’s Face­book page or call Mark Dreibel­bis at 610488-7896.


The Dollpe­hock Sanger Chor per­formed tra­di­tional hymns in Ger­man dur­ing the Farm Fes­ti­val held at the His­toric Dreibel­bis Farm, Virginville. The event high­lighted the his­tory of the area, in­clud­ing Na­tive Amer­i­can roots, Rev­o­lu­tion­ary and Civil War...


Berks County Dairy roy­alty Malaina Rhoads, Li’l Miss Dairy Princess, and Dairy Am­bas­sador Macken­zie Blatt in­vited these young vis­i­tors to the His­toric Dreibel­bis Farm Fes­ti­val to gen­tly pet two young Guernsey bulls.

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