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The Hay Creek Festival…A Family Tradition for 42 Years

Aug 16, 2018 • by Hay Creek Valley Historical Association
Jack Woods of Ronks PA talk about the roll of the gutterman in the metal casting process at Joanna Furnace. The Hay Creek Festival has 1,200 volunteers who recreate life in the 18th & 19th century at the annual festival

On September 7, 8 & 9, The Hay Creek Historians invite families to join them at the 42nd edition of the Hay Creek Festival to be held at Historic Joanna Furnace Iron Works near Morgantown. This festival is one of the most comprehensive historical events in Southeastern Pennsylvania.

Here visitors travel through time and experience life in a rural industrial iron-making village. The interpretation timeline runs from the beginnings of the furnace in 1791 up to the 1950’s. Visitors will experience the sights, sounds, aromas and activities which have long disappeared from contemporary life.

For almost four generations, families have been returning to, what has become for them, a ‘can’t-miss’ family tradition. Youngsters, whose families attended in the early days, are now grown and return with their own children. The Hay Creek Festival encompasses all that is good about the life and heritage in Southeast Pennsylvania over two centuries—all the things that set the basis for today’s area lifestyle. It recreates what life was like before cell phones, mass-produced goods, processed foods, high-speed transportation and digital technology.

The result is that visitors have many unique opportunities to learn about the quiet life and grueling work that people endured to thrive during that simpler time. The traditions, lifestyle and values of the Joanna Furnace Community residents and the ironworkers are recreated to allow visitors to examine their own family heritage and traditions. The Festival experience, as interpreted by the Hay Creek Historians, is supported by almost 1200 volunteers, crafts persons, artisans, food servers, mechanical technologists and members of partnering community non-profit organizations.

The 2018 main festival events run all three days from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. with a special Saturday evening musical program at 6:00pm by up-and-coming country singer Sam Schmidthuber. This year’s edition promises the same time-defying experience and, as always, is enlivened through a diverse array of attractions.

All types of food will be available from early American open fire cooked food samples, baked goods,  traditional old-time foods, to popular fair-type foods. Saturday and Sunday mornings visitors can enjoy the Ironmaster’s Breakfast Buffet served in Mule Stable building. The breakfast runs from 8 to 11 am.

Again, this year, antique vehicle, tractor, or engine participants will be encouraged to enter their vehicles and engines in the Mechanical Technology Exhibition Contest. Visitors will judge the technology area displays. The technology participant awards willbe given as the results of visitor votes.

Other unique attractions, which are sure to please, include demonstrations of early food preservation from the days before refrigerators. Food interpreters will bake traditional home-baked bread in the outdoor bake ovens. Homemade soups will be cooked over open fires just as they were 150 years ago. Visitors can also see an expanded Civil War encampment including both Federal and Confederate units. A Civil War era apothecary will be open in the Early American Craft Section.

Trained interpreters will be stationed in the restored historic iron-making complex buildings, Blacksmith Shop, Casting House, Office/Store and Charcoal House Museum. The interpreters will demonstrate and tell visitors about the activities that went on within each building over the 106 years the furnace was in operation. A free video showing the furnace history, iron production processes and the restoration efforts of the Hay Creek Valley Historical Association will be shown continuously in the Blowing Engine House.

Inside the vast Mechanical Technology Building, a line shaft will be powering actual nineteen-century machinery showing the early days of manufacturing in the Industrial Revolution. Interpreters will outline the story of the ironmasters’ mansion that stood until 1960. Traditional artisans will demonstrate the domestic and village industries which made the old community self-sufficient.

“We must teach skills like woodworking, metal casting, food preservation, and sewing to our children so they can understand how the world works,” said Hay Creek Festival Interpreter Jack Woods.

“At the same time, the Hay Creek Festival makes it fun for everyone to learn about early American crafts and trades. The inclusion of numerous hands-on and early American food sampling activities will engage the whole family. People learn better by doing. So, we invite festival visitors to roll up their sleeves and participate in hands-on crafts like candle making, sauerkraut preparation, papermaking, weaving, quilling and so many more,” said Executive Director, Mark Zerr.

“And something for the youngsters (of all ages) is the Joanna Furnace chore list. On arriving at the historic site, they receive a list of “chores” to accomplish, items to look for, ask interpreters about and then have interpreters to sign off the “chores” on the sheet. These chores and points of interest are placed throughout the site. Children (and children at heart) earn a free wagon ride when they collect some signatures from the station interpreters.

“Families, when arriving at past festivals, sometimes planned their day around the chore lists, so that they were sure not to miss any areas throughout the 26-acre historic site. I’m happy that we can offer this free optional hands-on feature,” Zerr said.

The three-day festival kicks off with a student-focused Education Day on Friday. The festival is open to the public all three days, but student/school and homeschool groups enjoy reduced admission only on Friday, the first day of the festival.

Note for Friday only, for student groups arriving by car, van or bus . . . These groups should plan on entering the event through the Furnace Road entrance (not from Rte. 10 entrance as in previous years).

All vehicle parking on Friday will be on the historic site parking lot entered from Furnace Road. There will be NO OFF-SITE PARKING ON FRIDAY.

All parking on Saturday and Sunday will be at the off-site lot along Rte. 10 about two miles south of Joanna Furnace. Free shuttle bus service to and from the Joanna Furnace site will run continuously Saturday and Sunday only.

All youngsters and students who can’t attend the Friday Education Day can participate with their families in the same educational activities on Saturday and Sunday as well.

The Hay Creek Festival offers a wide variety of selected vendors providing hand-made crafts for purchase in the Creekside Crafts section. “We like to offer unique gifts and products you can’t find in a store. All of our craftsmen produce what they sell, so you can find one-of-a-kind items just as you would find at high-quality craft shows,” said Executive Director Zerr. The Creekside Crafts section offers an array of original items including pottery, jewelry, ceramics, woodcrafts, soaps and much more.

The whole family will enjoy the full schedule of on-stage entertainment the Hay Creek Festival offers. “We try to space it out, so the child-focused entertainment happens earlier in the day, over all three days and we have the musical family-oriented entertainment in the late afternoon. Each day is packed with entertainment that will get the whole family learning . . . together.,” said Zerr.

This year, the entertainment includes Ventriloquist Marion Gehman and Friends, Tiggar’s Prop comedy Magic Show, Chris Ivey Juggler, Galena Brass Band, the Forgotten Friend Animal Sanctuary and period dancing, in which children and adults are invited to participate.  In addition, on Saturday evening from 6:00 to 8:30 pm 2018 nominee for the Josie Music Awards Sam Schmidthuber will perform! Sam is in the running to receive the Young Adult Artist of the Year/Young Adult Vocalist of the Year award.

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