From 1949 to 1979, Hersheypark played host to an annual extravaganza known as Pennsylvania Dutch Days, or “Siss nach Unvergleichlich” in Pennsylvania Dutch. This unique event, which took place every August, drew in over a million visitors, offering a captivating blend of cultural celebration and tourist allure.
Pennsylvania Dutch Days had its origins in a Pennsylvania Dutch language course taken by a group of 33 adult students. Their class project took shape in 1949 when they organized a picnic, marking the inception of the inaugural Pennsylvania Dutch Day. The event quickly gained popularity and momentum.
The festivities of Pennsylvania Dutch Days encompassed an array of exhibits, engaging speakers, thrilling games, traditional songs, and lively folk dances. Attendees were treated to a glimpse into the past through displays of historical artifacts like farm tools and household items adorned with intricate Pennsylvania Dutch designs. Demonstrations of age-old practices, such as apple butter making and butter churning, added an interactive and educational aspect to the event.
Distinguished speakers, including notable figures like G. Gilbert Snyder and Congressman John C. Kunkel, graced the occasion with their presentations. Some speeches were even delivered in the Pennsylvania Dutch language, adding a unique linguistic flavor to the festivities. The event also featured entertaining competitions and vibrant concerts, infusing the atmosphere with merriment.
Over the years, Pennsylvania Dutch Days expanded its scope, growing to span multiple days, sometimes up to six. The event saw the introduction of novel attractions like a farm implement show and captivating livestock displays. While the contest for the “Lottwaerrick Queen” was a highlight, it eventually faced challenges in finding contestants fluent in Pennsylvania Dutch.
As times evolved, Pennsylvania Dutch Days gradually transformed from its cultural roots into more of a tourist attraction. The changing facilities at Hersheypark posed logistical difficulties for sustaining the event, leading to its eventual discontinuation in 1979.
Pennsylvania Dutch Days remains a testament to the power of cultural heritage, bringing people together to celebrate traditions, language, and history, all within the enchanting backdrop of Hersheypark.