Ru­ral PA Dutch farmers par­took in folk fes­ti­val to make event au­then­tic (Part I)

Show­cas­ing our ru­ral folk cul­ture to the na­tion de­manded a lot of se­ri­ous ded­i­ca­tion and work

The Southern Berks News - - LOCAL NEWS - Richard L.T. Orth A Look Back In His­tory

When I be­came in­volved with the newlysplit and named Kutz­town Penn­syl­va­nia Ger­man Fes­ti­val in 1995, build­ing stands along­side Richard Shaner, which thank­fully re­gained its name back to the Penn­syl­va­nia Dutch Folk Fes­ti­val (at Kutz­town), Dr. Al­fred L. Shoe­maker’s de­sire and vi­sion to op­er­ate a true, au­then­tic fes­ti­val passed along to Mr. Shaner in its early years. Dick car­ried on Doc’s de­ter­mi­na­tion and made sure I was in­tro­duced to the PA Dutch “wor­kethic” of our ru­ral farm peo­ple, which I had only some­what been ac­cus­tomed to as a youth.

This level of ex­per­tise of Shoe­maker’s for­mer col­leagues, friends at the an­nual folk fes­ti­val, and even back to those in­volved at Franklin and Mar­shall Col­lege, his vi­sion, de­ter­mi­na­tion, grit, and goals so im­pact­ful, all those who knew and learned un­der Dr. Shoe­maker also wished to show­case our ru­ral folk cul­ture to the na­tion and de­manded a lot of se­ri­ous ded­i­ca­tion and work!

With its in­cep­tion (in 1950), his co-ed­i­tors of the widely read Penn­syl­va­nia Dutch­man news¬pa­per, (1949-1952) like Dr. Don Yoder and J. Wil­lian Frey had al­ready ex­cited a num­ber of PA Dutch peo­ple in south­east­ern Penn­syl­va­nia that our na­tive folk cul­ture was a proud part of Amer­ica’s dy­namic her­itage and should be shared with the en­tire na­tion.

So, in 1950, when the staff of The Dutch­man news­pa­per be­gan its PA Dutch Folk Fes­ti­val at Kutz­town, there were al­ready Dutch­men news­pa­per read­ers and na­tives will­ing to do the work to share Al­fred Shoe­maker’s na­tional Penn­syl­va­nia Dutch folk fes­ti­val no mat­ter how much work or time it en­tailed to present an au­then­tic aca­demic folk fes­ti­val.

How­ever, since many of these flu­ent-speak­ing Ger­man Di­alect Rhineland de­scen­dants liked the fact that Dr. Shoe­maker’s ed­i­tors could con­verse in PA Dutch, them­selves, and un­der­stood their cul­ture, they were more than will­ing to join in his ef­forts to cel­e­brate their Amer­i­cana fea­tures of our more than 300-year-old PA Dutch Cul­ture at a time in the 1950s when ur­ban Amer­i­cans were en­joy­ing push but­ton mod­ern liv­ing.

How­ever, the ru­ral PA Dutch Folk Fes­ti­val still ap­pealed to city folk who no longer re­mem­bered life on the farm, let alone de­li­cious PA Dutch cooking that was ea­gerly an­tic­i­pated at the an­nual cel­e­bra­tion.

Among nu­mer­ous na­tives of both Berks and Le­high Coun­ties, Shoe­maker (a na­tive of Le­high) dis­cov­ered the pride which swelled within each Dutch per­son who was more than will­ing to demon­strate or help build au­then­tic folk fes­ti­val demon­stra­tions.

In the early years, per­haps no other farm fam­ily on which Shoe­maker re­lied for much of the folk fes­ti­val prepa­ra­tion was Herb and Vi­ola Miller, and later their chil­dren who lived on a farm just north of Kutz­town.

Still to­day, their son Lester in his 80s still calls the hoe down­ing at to­day’s 21st Cen­tury fes­ti­vals with his grand­kids mostly in their 20s and 30s now in­volved in the danc­ing. As the folk fes­ti­val pro­gressed the fol­low­ing year in 1951, Doc Shoe­maker counted on a lo­cal Dutch­man named Ge­orge Adam (1910-2002) and liked this con­ge­nial farmer’s dis­po­si­tion.

Ge­orge was also a road su­per­vi­sor for Rich­mond Town­ship, near to the bor­ough of Kutz­town.

A life­long farm­ing

Dutch­man who could cor­rectly set up rail fences and ru­ral thresh­ing grain demon­stra­tions, (Ge­orge) Adam was called “Butcher Ge­orge” by those who would hire his ex­cel­lent ser­vices to butcher an­i­mals on their farm site and ren­der lard and scrap­ple for fam­ily use. Ge­orge’s

red painted stake body truck, large enough to carry his butcher ket­tles and butcher­ing trough, was al­ways seen around Kutz­town with shovel and push broom stand­ing high in the air above the cab, a sym­bolic trade­mark of the fes­ti­val and his will­ing­ness to lend a help­ing hand.

A jovial and hum­ble na­tive who never shirked at help­ing a friend or farmer, his work-ethic was to share the bur­den of ev­ery­one who asked his help. He be­lieved any­thing was pos­si­ble if you had a proper pos­i­tive work at­ti­tude, an old­time PA Dutch work ethic cus­tom.


Ster­ling “Tiny” Zim­mer­man, a true grit farmer and butcher Dutch­man, is pic­tured with folk singer son, stage name, Kenn Brooks also was a part of the his­toric Kutz­town Folk Fes­ti­val.

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