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The annual Pennsylvania German Zammelaaf will be held Saturday, March 18, at Midway Diner in Bethel.

The event is the successor to Lebanon’s Pennsylvania German Festival, which was held at HACC in downtown Lebanon until 2011.

Organizer Warren Wenger said that when the Lebanon event came to an end, organizers sought to continue the tradition somehow, seeking to continue promoting Pennsylvania Dutch as a language and culture, and celebrating its crafts, artists, genealogy, and heritage.

That desire materialized into the zammelaaf – a Pennsylvania Dutch word meaning “social gathering” – which was first held in 2013 at New Covenant Christian School. Wenger said that since 2019, the event has been held in Bethel at the Midway Diner.

A table for the Wenger Meetinghouse Preservation Association at a previous Pennsylvania German Zammelaaf. Read more about Jonestown’s Wenger Meetinghouse here. (Provided photo)

The Pennsylvania Dutch dialect emerged regionally through German, French, and Swiss immigrants whose German language grew to include American English words and phrases (e.g. “outen the lights,” meaning turn off the lights).

The schedule for the free event runs from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. A silent auction will also be operating all day.

  • 10:15 a.m. – Die Schwadore Schalle – Youth and adults sing in PA German
  • 11:00 a.m. – Children’s Activity – PA German rhymes and songs with Mary Laub
  • 11:30 a.m. – James Dibert – “Following the Trail of our PA German Ancestors”
  • 12:15 p.m. – Children’s Activity – PA German story with Mary Laub
  • 12:45 p.m. – Dave Carlson – “Clothing through the Centuries”
  • 1:30 p.m. – Children’s Activity – PA German songs with Mary Laub
  • 2:00 p.m. – Doug Madenford & Chris LaRose – “Ask a PA Dutchman: A Mix of PA Dutch Humor and Music”
Youth attendees play with Pennsylvania Dutch toys at a previous Pennsylvania German Zammelaaf. (Provided photo)

The Midway Diner also uses the occasion to feature Pennsylvania Dutch food on their menu, including the well-known pork and sauerkraut dish, as well as Snitz ans Nepp (“apples and buttons”) and other meat and vegetable dishes.

Die Schwadore Schalle – which translates to “Swatara Sounds” – is a local singing group founded in 2002 by Pennsylvania Dutch expert Alice Spayd. Wenger said that the group’s songs vary year to year, but in the past their repotoire has included “Daheem Uff der Alt Bauerei” (“Home on the Range”), “Drei Blinde Meis” (“Three Blind Mice”), “Des Land iss Dei Land” (“This Land is Your Land”), and “Schnitzelbank” (“Cutting Board” or table”).

Wenger added that “Schnitzelbank” is considered one of the most popular PA Dutch songs. You can see a video of a 2018 performance by Die Schwadore Schalle below.

YouTube video

The event is run by an eponymous nonprofit, the Pennsylvania German Zammelaaf. More information can be found on Facebook. With additional questions, organizers can be reached at zammelaaf@gmail.com.

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