Delmont's festival weekend: Kuchen, farming events honor local traditions
DELMONT—Delmont celebrated traditions both in farming and in German baking last weekend with two concurrent festivals that have been around long enough to become town traditions of their own.
The Kuchen Festival took place downtown, with kuchen being sold alongside a craft show in the Legion Hall on Saturday and art and quilt shows being held in local businesses on both Saturday and Sunday.
Just a quarter-mile away, the Twin Rivers Old Iron Association simultaneously hosted its 15th annual Harvest Festival. Beginning at 8 a.m. on both Saturday and Sunday, the festival featured demonstrations on a variety of antique farming equipment, live music, a parade, kids' activities, food and a petting zoo.
Kuchen for a cause
The first year Earla Strid sold kuchens, she made 15 of the German dessert for a bake sale. This weekend, 22 years later, she and her husband, Dick Strid, worked with a volunteers to bake and sell 1,017 at the Kuchen Festival in Delmont, where crafters also set up tables to sell their work.
The Kuchen Festival is hosted by the Historical Society of Delmont, and the proceeds go toward upkeep and upgrades to the Pumphouse Museum, the site of the original fire department in Delmont, built in 1903.
Beginning at 7:30 a.m. on Saturday, the Strids said the town's Legion Hall was crowded with people who wanted to make sure they could get kuchen before they ran out. Earla Strid said most of the customers came from out of town.
Each kuchen was sold for $10, and the Strids estimate that after the costs of supplies, advertising and renting the hall, they probably made a little more than $5 per kuchen for the museum.
All of the kuchen sold were made on Friday at the Tyndall Bakery and were assembled, baked and taken to Delmont in a refrigerated truck in about eight hours. In recent years, the Strids have made nine batches of dough, but the final number of kuchen themselves varies from year to year, and they sell out often. About four years ago, they made 1,500 — 100 times as many kuchen as Earla Strid made for her first bake sale.
"That was a lot of kuchen, but we sold them all," Dick Strid said.
To ensure that things go as quickly as possible, the Strids and the volunteers that help them use an assembly line process.
"It starts out with somebody cutting the dough, somebody throwing it through a machine to press it out, putting it in the pans ... and then we add the fruit and custard and they go into the oven. The oven is probably bigger than this wall," Earla Strid said, gesturing to the side wall of the hall, which was long enough to accommodate several craft vendors' display tables.
Dick Strid said that the kuchen is significant in Delmont because of the German heritage many people there share.
"We're a German community," he said. "It was pretty predominantly German in the era that I grew up in, but it's not the same anymore."
While making and selling so many kuchen takes a significant amount of time and effort, the Strids said they enjoy doing it to help the museum.
"The days we were doing it were well spent visiting and talking with people. We meet new people every time," Dick Strid said. "They appreciate what we're doing"
Before the first Harvest Festival was held in 2004, it was planned to simply be the start of a club for people interested in tractors, said Glenny Stern, who is from north of Delmont and is the president of the Twin Rivers group. The festival picked up in popularity, and the Twin Rivers eventually purchased the more than 30-acre farm where the festival is held today and where the association does a small amount of farming. Stern estimated that around 700 people would visit this year's festival.
Today, both Twin Rivers members and nonmembers bring their tractors and other equipment to display and to ride in the festival's parade. While tractors are the most populous pieces of equipment found on the festival grounds, machinery such as threshers and plows are also brought in, and this year, a few vintage race cars made an appearance.
Stern said the main goal of the festival is not to become extremely popular or to make money — while food is sold, there is no entrance fee, and activities are free — but to engage younger people in vintage equipment and farming practices.
"Basically, our motto is just to educate, especially the young, and show them how things were," he said. "A lot of us grew up with a lot of this stuff. And our trouble is that the older ones, we've lost a number already that originally started this thing. We're hoping to draw some of the younger guys in here to continue to keep this thing going. We're not trying to be big or anything like that."
Stern said that more buildings, demonstrations and activities have been added over the years. This year, members of the American Legion presented the colors before the parade for the first time, and Armour High School's marching band made its first parade appearance. Stern said that this year's biggest structural change is that the addition housing the restrooms was finished being built before the festival began.
In the future, Stern hopes to continue adding on to the festival, and said that he'd especially like to see more horses involved and to build a tractor ring where kids can drive a tractor for the first time.