Farm Festival gives glimpse into agricultural past
Hundreds filled the farm and lands of Historic Dreibelbis Farm with roots that trace to preRevolutionary times
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 conflicts and the ingenuity of settlers and farmers.
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.