Kutztown Folk Festival America’s Oldest Folklife Festival
The Kutztown Folk Festival is the oldest continuously operated folklife festival in America. This nine-day event draws visitors from all over the world, entertaining families while providing valuable insight into the traditions of the Pennsylvania Dutch and their fascinating way of life.
The Kutztown Folk Festival is one of the oldest and biggest folk festivals celebrated in the USA. Originating in the 1950s, this festival aims to give the most enriching experiences to the visitors and acquaint them with the fascinating traditions of Pennsylvania Dutch culture and the way they live their lives. Celebrated for nine days in July, this festival takes place in Kutztown, Pennsylvania in the USA. The event features authentic folklife demonstrations, a wide variety of Pennsylvania Dutch food, over 200 nationally recognized, juried folk artists and traditional American artisans, a wide range of children’s activities, music, dancing, etc. The festival also houses the largest quilt sale in America and has an internationally attended Quilt Auction of top prize-winning quilts. This nine-day festival had been featured twice in National Geographic and has been called “one of the most unique festivals on the East coast” by the Washington Post.
The Kutztown Folk Festival
The Kutztown Folk Festival is the oldest continuously operated folklife festival in America. This nine-day event continues to draw visitors from all over the world, entertaining families while providing valuable insight into the traditions of the Pennsylvania Dutch and their fascinating way of life. Children’s activities abound and admission is free for children 12 and under. The festival also houses the largest quilt sale in America and has an internationally attended Quilt Auction of top prize-winning quilts.
A Unique Visitor Experience
At the Kutztown Folk Festival, a visitor experiences more music, more entertainment, more fun, and far less work than they would in a Pennsylvania Dutch household. But the purpose of the festival is still fulfilled, as evidenced by the continued participation of the local Pennsylvania Dutch community as well as many of the foremost experts and scholars of this fascinating microcosm of America. This unusual nine-day festival had been featured twice in National Geographic and has been called “one of the most unique festivals on the East coast” by the Washington Post, with good reason.
“I have been coming to the festival since I was 6. I am now 60 and when my kids were small, I brought them and we are still coming and they are now 25 & 26. Just the greatest family place to go. Great food and fun times!!”
In the summer of 1950, three of America’s leading folklorists presented the first Kutztown Folk Festival using a unique hands-on approach that let “outsiders” experience firsthand what it means to be part of a Pennsylvania Dutch family. Key to the event’s success was the ability of the festival’s “founding fathers” to organize the area’s local citizens and coordinate their participation in the festival. These were not actors, but actual Pennsylvania Dutch natives demonstrating their everyday way of life.
Please read Kutztown Folk Festival: America’s Oldest Folklife Celebration for more history on our Festival.
Generation to Generation
Nearly 25,000 people descended on Kutztown that first year. What started as a four-day showcase during the Fourth of July week quickly grew to nine days drawing well over 130,000 attendees. Multiple generations of the same families continue to present and participate at the festival; likewise, many generations of attendees visit the festival each year.
Fun, Food & Pageantry
Today, one can still find traditional craftsmen at the festival demonstrating the skills and tools that helped build this great country. Farming and folklife demonstrations abound throughout the grounds. The phrase “eat till ya ouch” still has great meaning as fabulous Pennsylvania Dutch food continues to tempt visitors. The sounds of square dancing jiggers and folk music fill the air, while children try their hand at many of the activities geared just to them. Of course, the pageantry and symbols of Pennsylvania Dutch culture such as quilts and barn stars still catch the eye of all who attend.