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Berks County PA Dutch Gathering celebrates PA German language, culture

The 83rd Baerricks Kaundy Pennsylfawnisch Deitsch Fersommling (Berks County Pennsylvania German Gathering) celebrated the Pennsylvania Dutch language and culture.

About 250 people enjoyed an entertaining evening, especially for those who have Pennsylvania German roots.

“We hope that they first and foremost have an enjoyable time hearing and speaking the PA German language, as well as eating a tasty, all-you-can-eat meal which includes some PA German traditional foods such as cottage cheese with apple butter and tripe (the lining of an animal stomach which is pickled),” said Mary Laub of Maxatawny Township, a member of the PA Deitsch Baerricks Kaundy.

Held at the Leesport Market Auction Hall on April 1, the event featured entertainment by The Happy Dutchmen German Band, all-you-can-eat food, PA German music and a chance to hear and speak the PA German language. The program included English translations.

“Since the PA Germans have a deep religious conviction and loyalty to country, prayers are offered, the pledge to the flag is recited and patriotic songs, as well as other familiar PA German songs, are part of the program,” said Laub.

“Attendees enjoy singing songs in the dialect,” she added. “It also provides an excellent opportunity to reacquaint with friends and meet others who share the enthusiasm about the PA German language.”

The Pennsylvania German (Dutch) Fersommling is traditionally held every Easter Monday at the Leesport Auction Hall.

“This is the state’s largest annual Pennsylvania Dutch gathering whose purpose is to celebrate the Pennsylvania Dutch language and culture,” said Laub.

The first Berks County Fersommling was held in 1937 at the Rajah Temple in Reading. This annual event was disrupted due to the COVID-19 pandemic and did not take place in 1943-1945 due to World War II.

Laub noted that there are different spellings of the word Fersommling, such as Versammling, ‘Fersammling’, and others.

“The reason is that there is disparity is because, initially, there was no formalized spellings or a dictionary, so phonics were used to spell words,” she explained.

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The keynote speaker Irwin Hamm, who spoke in PA German, encouraged the audience to continue to learn the PA German language as well as entertained the audience with humorous personal stories.

“Knowing that some of the attendees have little or no knowledge of the language, he enlisted the assistance of Ron Mohr who translated the PA German into English. This was very helpful and made Irwin’s delivery more enjoyable,” said Laub.

Throughout the event, an English translation was provided, as needed, to facilitate understanding of the PA German language.

As part of the program, PA Deitsch Baerricks Kaundy board member Joan Wert was awarded a special Fraktur certificate which recognizes her outstanding contribution to the board during the past year. The recipient of this annual award is voted upon by fellow board members and is not disclosed until the Fersommling event.

PA Deitsch Baerricks Kaundy Vormeeschder (leader or president) Gary Bond presided over the program.

“The board, also known as the Rawd which can be translated as ‘wheel’, consists of 30 men and women who come from different areas of Berks County but share a Pennsylvania German background and have the common goal of preserving and honoring the history of the Pennsylvania Dutch,” said Laub.

The Rawd meets several times during the year at the PA German Heritage Center in Kutztown. At the event, the Rawd members are acknowledged and wear a red handkerchief to distinguish themselves as resources for anyone needing assistance.

Next year’s Fersommling, a ticketed event, will be held on April 21. For more information about this event, follow the Facebook page at PA Deitsch Baerricks Kaundy or contact Linda Alspach at lalspach@comcast.net.


Source: Berkshire mont

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