Sunday, September 07, 2008

CULTURE: Food, Culture At Festival At Reading

(previously published here at

Food, family, farmers and animals all come together this weekend for the 19th annual Pennsylvania Dutch Festival at Philadelphia's historic Reading Terminal Market, bringing a little taste of the Lancaster countryside to the big city.

In between buggy rides and digging into chicken pot pie, though, it's worth remembering that fun and games aside, it takes a lot of work to prepare and cook the food, make the crafts and put on the show that we've come to know and love ... plus a few new surprises.

They stand there every day, doling out heaps of apple dumplings, bags of fresh produce and slabs of ribs. One of the few constants in city of hectic unease, the Market's Pennsylvania Dutch merchants are a welcome reminder to celebrate deep-rooted traditions and simple yet beautiful creativity.

At the Dutch Eating Place, workers - wearing everything from plain dresses, aprons and bonnets to T-shirts, overalls, jeans and baseball caps - work side-by-side to prepare their award-winning blueberry pancakes, as well as hot soups, fresh-roasted open-faced turkey sandwiches with mashed potatoes, and fresh-squeezed lemonade.

"It's a lot of fun, but a lot of work," said Phares Glick, the owner of the neighboring Rib Pit, which has operated here for 21 years. "It's always [about] the new customers and new interest."

Merchants are Amish families who have operated here since the market began in 1980. All hailing from Lancaster County, these farmers and entrepreneurs bring a rare charm and dedication to both their products and their customers, whether it is Fisher's ice cream (which comes in flavors for diabetics, too), Kauffman's colorful tomatoes, Beiler's delicious donuts, L. Halterman's sausages or Dienner's barbeque chicken.

The families all know one another and according to Kevin Beiler, who runs Beiler’s Bakery and A J Pickle Patch & Salads, they all “try helping each other out.”

The days of feasting culminates in a barn-raising and auction on Saturday, when a small barn - in this case, a garden shed - will be sold to the highest bidder. Both events are new to the festival.
All proceeds will go to the Lancaster Farmland Trust, a private nonprofit that seeks to preserve and protect Lancaster's agriculture, land and the way of life tied to it.

The three-day festival will take place in the market's center court seating area from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., as well as outside between 11th and 12th streets and Arch and Filbert streets.

Heather L. Chin can be reached at
©The Evening Bulletin 2008

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