Returning! “The Ox Roast,” a Kutztown Festival Tradition
After a four year hiatus, one of the Kutztown Folk Festival’s most unique and popular features returns to the delight of visitor’s taste buds!
On five select days of the Festival’s annual summertime nine day run, Fest-goers will be able to witness the awesome site of a 1,200-pound Black Angus steer being slow roasted on a specially designed, open-air, rotisserie like custom-built roaster.
At the stroke of mid-night, nine hours prior to the Festival’s opening, festival food specialist Vince Cocca, area folk life historian Harold Schaeffer, and an additional crew of five load the magnificent animal onto the rotisserie spit. Needing 10 to 12 hours of roasting time, Schaeffer periodically rotates the steer, while basting it with a juicy blend of spices and herbs.
By 11 am, 2 hours after the festival gates open, Schaeffer will methodically begin carving off the finished meat just in time for the hungry lunchtime crowds. The succulent roasted meat is then piled high on large round rolls and served throughout the day. The famous Ox Roast sandwich is available all 9 days of the Festival.
The Ox Roast presentation pays homage to days gone by when the oxen, a specially trained agricultural working steer, was very much revered. When the oxen reached the end of its life, it became the center point of a wonderful celebration and feast for many working farm families.
The mechanized Industrial Revolution in the late 19th century eliminated the oxen as the primary power source for most farming communities. However, the Ox Roast celebration and tradition continued through the early 20th century at political rallies, church gatherings, and county fairs.
Thanks to Allentown’s Art Hertzog, The Ox Roast presentation made its inaugural appearance at the Kutztown Folk Festival in 1969. For decades it continued to attract interest from around the country as it was presented by Hertzog’s daughter Veon, her husband Bill Becker, and their master roaster Al Spats. Veon’s sons Greg and Terry Stewart continued the family’s festival tradition until their retirement in 2015.
In 2018 with the help of Vince Cocca, his son Chris, and Art Hertzog’s son Bill, a plan was laid out to rebuild and bring the Ox Roast presentation back to the Festival. Fabrication and planning continued into early 2019 as a much more efficient custom built heating system was acquired from Texas. Also joining the team at this time was local fabricator Johnny Kelschner and Southeastern Pennsylvania community oriented fuel supplier, Suburban Propane.
Literally, under the cover of darkness on the eve of the Festival’s 2019 opening, the Festival’s set-up crew put the final touches on the remarkable rebuild. The first “trial run” of the Festival’s new Ox Roast was completed on opening day. As they say, “the rest is history,” once again!
About the Kutztown Folk Festival
The Kutztown Folk Festival is the oldest continuously operated folklife festival in America. Held in Kutztown, Pennsylvania, the nine-day festival draws visitors from all over the world, entertaining families while providing insight and understanding of the traditions of the Pennsylvania Dutch and their fascinating way of life. The Kutztown Folk Festival features authentic folklife demonstrations, a wide variety of Pennsylvania Dutch food; over 200 nationally recognized, juried folk artists and traditional American craftsmen; over 2,500 locally hand-made quilts on display and for sale; antiques and collectables; six stages of entertainment; music and dancing; and a wide range of children's activities.
Dates for the 71st Annual Kutztown Folk Festival are June 27th thru July 5th, 2020. For more information visit; www.kutztownfestival.com.
Kutztown Folk Festival