Annual Cherry Fair shows what Pennsylvania German life was about
SCHAEFFERSTOWN >> A history story is only as good as the person telling it.
And that's a big reason why the annual Cherry Fair and Early American Craft Show has been a success for a long time. Presented by Historic Schaefferstown Inc., the event always has crafters, demonstrators, musicians and speakers who know what Pennsylvania German life was like in the 18th and 19th centuries — and they love sharing their expertise with the hundreds of people who come to the Alexander Schaeffer Farm.
"If you want to learn about the 19th century, this is the place to come," said volunteer Jan Taylor, who will be in period dress and telling guests about the Schaeffer farmhouse, a National Historic Landmark.
It all happens Saturday, June 27, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., at the Schaeffer Farm, 213 S. Carpenter St. Admission is $5 per person; children ages 12 and younger are free.
Taylor and Eleanor Sweeney operate a small business, American Art Traditions. They paint authentic Pennsylvania Dutch designs on small wooden boxes, such as chests and recipe boxes. They will be two of the approximately 40 craftspeople and demonstrators at the fair.
"We include the history of the pattern with every box," said Taylor, who lives in Schaefferstown. "We do the research."
Another crafter who will give one of the most interesting talks on Saturday is David Carlson Jr., of Cleona. Carlson is an expert on how early Pennsylvania Germans made their own clothing. He even built his own 18th-century-style spinning wheel from recycled wooden pieces.
"I'll talk about weaving in the 1700s," said Carlson, who will be in period clothing. "Your textiles were clothing and bedding, if you were fortunate enough to have them. Basically, I give an overview of textiles — how they were made and the pattern of the clothing."
Carlson's presentation will be at 1 p.m. on the farm stage. He will describe how settlers in this area made clothing and linens from four materials: flax, cotton, silk and wool.
"The Pennsylvania Germans would have used flax and wool because they could grow it on their farms," Carlson said.
"Most families had a spinning wheel and tape loom," he explained.
A tape loom made drawstrings that were used to fasten clothing — in lieu of buttons and belts.
Carlson has been giving demonstrations about clothing and weaving since 2004.
"I've always been interested in history and working with my hands," he said. "The hardest thing about history is getting people to connect to that period. That's what I try to do."
Visitors to the Cherry Fair can see everything from the binding, threshing and baling of straw during a grain harvest, to the plowing of a field by the Pennsylvania Draft Horse & Mule Association.
There will be a working sawmill, blacksmith, shingle making, soap making, candle making, rug braiding, sheep-to-shawl demonstration, and much more.
Always popular is the baking demonstration in the well-preserved squirrel-tail oven. Guests can sample food that was typically eaten by early Pennsylvania Germans.
Featured performer Jay Smar will do two shows, at noon and 2:30 p.m. Smar will do a selection of Americana folk and coal-mining songs on guitar, banjo and fiddle.
He has performed twice at the Philadelphia Folk Festival and has completed two tours of Scotland in the past six years. He has recorded music for the BBC documentary "The Welsh in America."
Also, the award-winning Holt Twins will perform on stage with Charmaine at 11:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. Linda and Emily Holt will play Americana tunes and early period music that was common in this area.
Linda Holt can play more than a dozen instruments, including replica 19th-century instruments.
"We talk about the musical instruments, like the dulcimer and the old-style banjo," Linda Holt said. "We talk about the history of the songs."
Take a self-guided tour through the Schaeffer farmhouse. An archeologist who has examined the historic site will be in the basement from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and from 1:30 to 3 p.m. to answer questions.
"The house will be open for tours, and people can learn about the Schaeffers and what went on here, including the distillery in the basement," Taylor said.
Also, guests can tour the organic Heirloom Garden a short distance from the house. The garden's vegetables and herbs are in full bloom, and many are close to harvest.
For the Kids
There's plenty for kids to do, including three cakewalks during the day, and Colonial games and toys. For ages 12 and younger, there will be a peanut scramble, hoop-rolling contest, candy scramble and a sack race. Kids love the wagon rides, too.
The Forebay Gift Shop will have jars of penny candy, toys, crafts and books available for purchase. Adults will like the Brendle Collection of Pennsylvania German Folklore and other educational items for the family.
It's not a Cherry Fair without cherry pies and other cherry-related foods. Also available will be ice cream, hamburgers from the organic-fed beef herd, and other food items.