Rejoicing celebrating German heritage and folklore at Kutztown University

For some, it was walking the path of memory.

For others, it gave them a glimpse of their heritage.

And for a moment I felt like going home.

Heemet Fescht brought culture to life. The annual event on Saturday at the Pennsylvania German Cultural Heritage Center at the University of Kutztown included traditional craftsmen, folklore lessons, cooking demonstrations, performances by folk musicians, and fun times.

“The great thing about this event is that you can find something to appreciate, even if it has nothing to do with Pennsylvania German culture,” said Patrick Don Moyer, director of the Heritage Center. “This is not just a celebration of the past, but a celebration of the cultural traditions that we still have today.”

Don Moyer explained that Heemet Fescht in Dutch, Pennsylvania will be translated into an English home festival. The festival celebrates the fruitful end of the harvest season with local members gathering at local churches.

The popularity of Saturday’s event is evidence that the ongoing pandemic has been partially spurred and there is a growing demand among locals to learn more about these traditions, Don Moyer said. Stated. He said his time at home created a new interest in learning about past beliefs and habits.

“The Heritage Center strives to be a resource for that,” he said.

Karen Shuey — Reading Eagle

Sara Edris, a senior at Kutztown University, is working to complete the hex sign during Heemet Fescht on Saturday. Edris is studying Anthropology and Pennsylvania German at KU.

Glenn and Margitta Stevens believe that the Heritage Center is a tremendous resource for the region.

The couple, who live in Newling Gold, do a short trek from their home in Schuylkill County to Helmetfest almost every fall. They also regularly participate in Christmas and Easter celebrations at the Heritage Center.

“It’s like a house to me,” Marghita said.

Marghita was born and raised in Germany. As such, she said, these events show off her language skills and give her the opportunity to participate in activities that remind her of her hometown. And that’s what she can share with her husband.

Glenn and Marghita met in Germany while stationed in Germany during military service. In fact, he said he spent so much of his career in the country that he often replaced what he knew in Pennsylvania Dutch with German.

“When you come here, you have the opportunity to see things as before,” Glenn said. “It gives us the opportunity to go back in time and meet the friends we made along the way. I’m really looking forward to it.”

Karen Shuey — Reading Eagle

Glenn and Marghita Stevens (left) offer heritage center volunteer Richard Riley lessons in Pennsylvania Dutch. They rarely miss the celebration of Heemet Fescht.

Craftsman Matthew Vardjan is also a regular at Heemet Fescht. He studied paper art family trade from an early age and began attending German festivals with his father.

“This is a family tradition that I want to stay alive,” said a man from Oley Township when his hands folded a piece of paper into a small star-shaped pattern. “I’m the fourth generation of Pennsylvania German folk art and I love showing people what we can do.”

In addition to the Moravian star, Valjan uses 1890 equipment to create postcards adorned with intricate block designs carefully carved by his mother. Some designs are hundreds of years old — relics of the past.

Karen Shuey — Reading Eagle

Artist Eric Claypoole displays a hex sign designed for Heemet Fescht.

Eric Craypool is another artist who has followed in the footsteps of his father.

Residents of Ren Heartsville said he painted the first barn hex sign at the age of twelve. And a few weeks ago, at the age of 60, he completed the 100th barn hex sign.

“It’s fun,” he said when asked why he continued. “I don’t think it will stop soon because it’s in my blood. I’ll keep showing this wonderful craft to people as long as I can.”

Perhaps the most interesting hex sign is that no one certainly knows why colorful designs began to appear on the sides of the barn.

“You can ask 10 different people what they mean and you’ll get 10 different answers,” he said with a big laugh. “It’s so funny.”

Karen Shuey — Reading Eagle

Lydia Al-Khal (3 years old, left) and her 6-year-old sister Laine paint their pumpkins on Heemet Fescht. The girls were there with their grandmother to learn more about their heritage.

Laverne Passman comes to Heemet Fescht every fall to hear such stories. And she brings her daughter and two granddaughters so they can better understand their heritage.

Pasman, who lives in Schnecksville, told his family that he would travel from Lehigh County to Kutztown to get a glimpse of his past.

“It’s very important for me to attend an event at the center here,” she said. “This is what we do to keep tradition and story alive.”

“We’re all in Pennsylvania German, so I like to talk to girls about their roots,” added her daughter, Erie Alcal, watching her decorate a pumpkin at a nearby table.

According to Don Moyer, Heemet Fescht is one of the many opportunities the Heritage Center offers to those who want to explore culture and learn more about the past.

Located on campus at the historic Shaladin Farmstead, the Heritage Center offers public access to historic buildings, seasonal events and classes in the Pennsylvania German dialect. We also offer a research library for those who want to study genealogy, history, language and culture.

“The Heritage Center is a way for people to experience college and for college to serve people,” he said. “That exchange is the main reason why heritage centers are so important.”

Rejoicing celebrating German heritage and folklore at Kutztown University

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