Blueberry Festival: Music, crafts and pie
You know it's really summer when Historic Bethlehem holds its annual Blueberry Festival, and this year, the summer and the festival were better than ever.
An estimated 3,000 festival visitors enjoyed mild temperatures, a variety of live musical entertainment, and traditional pie and ice cream at the colonial-period Burnside Plantation, which has housed the festival since its inception 28 years ago. In fact, according to the festival's managing director, LoriAnn Wukitsch, the two-day event was organized to open the plantation to the public and to promote an awareness of colonial gardening.
Purchased in 1748 by Moravian missionaries James and Mary Burnside, the then 50-acre farm was the first public (non-church) residence in the community. It contained a barn, stables, and both a log and a stone farmhouse - all still standing on the remaining 6.5 acres of the plantation, now located in the heart of the city.
Besides craft demonstrations and house tours, this year's festival expanded its nearly non-stop entertainment to three stages, with performances appealing to all ages and musical tastes.
Also added was the popular "Pints from the Past" beer-brewing demonstration. Dressed in 18th Century Moravian clothing, brewer's assistant Craig Larimer poured boiling water from one giant pot on an open fire to a second pot of two different kinds of malted barley. A sugary liquid from the barley pot was added back to the boiling water, and later it would be cooled. Finally, hops would be added.
Brew master Christopher Bowen said the liquid would become alcohol within 7-10 days, but it would be better to wait.
"Today's brew is two months from bottling," he said.
Cooking in colonial times also took a lot of time and effort. Plantation volunteers have researched recipes from the period, and every year they demonstrate various methods of food preparation that use ingredients grown or raised on the plantation. This year, they concentrated on making dairy products, including cheese, butter and even ice cream.
Across the grounds, people were lined up to buy ice cream and pie made the modern way.
The Bethlehem Dairy Store custom makes blueberry-swirl ice cream every year for the festival.
Most of it winds up on top of slices of blueberry crumb pie baked by Tombler's Bakery, using "scratch bake" methods and all natural ingredients. This year, Tombler's baked 680 blueberry pies, and 50 each of peach and strawberry-rhubarb.
For the first time, pies could be pre-ordered online, and 70 were sold in advance.
For youngsters there were pony rides, hands-on crafts to make, and the petting zoo. Looking around as people purchased tickets at the entrance, Wukitsch observed that there were a lot of children in attendance - a fact that she said was "so exciting," given the educational mission of the plantation and its festival.