National Geographic : 1952 Oct
Pennsylvania Dutch Folk Festival Visitors by Thousands Flock to Kutztown, Pennsylvania, Each Year for a Sample of "Dutch" Culture-and a Taste of Shoo-fly Pie BY MAYNARD OWEN WILLIAMS With Illustrations from Photographs by the Author N southeastern Pennsylvania some of our Nation's fairest land rolls along from fruitful valley to pleasant hill. Here, generations ago, refugees from poverty and oppression in the Rhineland and Switzerland found a peaceful haven in a superlatively fine farming section.* The Pennsylvania "Dutch" were honest, in dustrious, intelligent, and neat, and so they have remained. Loyal Americans, in love with our land and institutions, they say they were the first to call George Washington the "Father of His Country." Their familiar name, "Dutch," implies no connection with the Netherlands, but is a corruption of the German word Deutsch, meaning German. On a sunny Fourth of July I was driving through the Dutch country. From Reading I turned northeastward along U. S. Route 222 toward my destination, Kutztown. Close-set shocks of golden grain were dry ing in the sun, while green expanses of waving corn rested the eye. Set in fat valleys, neat homes and bulky red barns suggested patient toil, prosperity, and idyllic peace. Lying in the shade, mild-eyed cattle chewed their cuds. Lustrous-backed chickens crowded the feed ing boxes or lifted their heads as they drank. Dutch Partial to Red Bright-red tractors stood under long fore bays decorated with geometric designs or simulated arches indicated by semicircles of white paint on the red walls. These "Dutch" descendants of German and Swiss ancestry like any color so long as it is red! I could forgive the few signboards, since they pointed the way to good food, a Penn sylvania Dutch distinction. Here and there, as I passed through a village, a sharp-angled church, painted deep red over the duller bricks, lifted a narrow spire toward heaven. About halfway between Allentown and Reading, Kutztown shoestrings its stores and restaurants along Route 222 (map, page 506). On each side neat homes set in velvet lawns soon give way to growing crops. On College Hill, at the west end of town, rise the ivy draped buildings of Kutztown State Teachers College. Hundreds of cars were going my way. At the town's principal intersection many of us turned to our left and after a few blocks drove into the grounds of the Kutztown Fair Asso ciation, already thronged with visitors. For this was our objective-the annual Pennsyl vania Dutch Folk Festival. More than 50,000 persons from 36 States came to see this four-day revival of "Dutch" culture, folklore, and tradition, and to partake of genuine Pennsylvania Dutch cooking. Busloads came daily from New York City. Some visitors came from the Canal Zone, Cuba, Hawaii, Switzerland, and England. Dress Identifies "Plain People" But no one enjoyed the festival more than the fun-loving Pennsylvania Dutch them selves. They came principally from the coun ties of Berks, Lebanon, Lancaster, York, Adams, and Dauphin. To the eye, the vast majority of this well fed, well-dressed throng was no whit different from any other American gathering. The preponderance of Pennsylvania Dutch are loosely grouped as "Church People"-Lu theran, Reformed, United Brethren, Evan gelical, and the Moravians. Their daily cus toms and habits are those of their fellow countrymen anywhere in this broad Nation. In the throng, however, was a sprinkling of those picturesque Pennsylvania Dutch known generally as the "Plain People" Mennonites, Amish, Dunkards, or Brethren, and River Brethren-distinguishable by their dress. These thrifty, mostly agricultural folk have clung to their old religious beliefs and precepts through the years. Mennonite men wear low, broad-brimmed hats and coats with stand-up collars and no lapels. The women don small, neat black bonnets, with prayer caps of fine white linen beneath, and dresses with tight bodices, long, tight sleeves, and high necks. Unlike the Mennonites, the Amish wear brilliant colors-bright violet, rich wine-red, or vivid green. The men's shirts nearly always are of one of these bright hues, but their suits are black, without lapels or outside pockets. Their black hats have broad brims and low crowns. Hooks and eyes, and even *See "In the Pennsylvania Dutch Country," by Elmer C. Stauffer, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE, July, 1941.