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WBCCI 45th Annual Swiss Festival National Rally
September 29, 2007
Tomorrow is the end of the rally but you could scarcely tell by the scene in Winklepleck Grove at ten o'clock this morning. It looks like one-half of the Airstreams have left the park, missing the big day of the Ohio Swiss Festival and the closing of the rally tomorrow. We're sure they are onto other exciting destinations and some of them have long drives in front of them. We rode the shuttle bus into town and caught the big parade with over one hundred entries. After the parade master of ceremonies announced a moment of silent prayer followed by the high school band's playing of The Star Spangled Banner, the parade treated us to dozens of antique and collectors cars.
The most memorable ones were the Model A's and the 1950's and 1960's big cars. Several of the cars from the early 60's sported the huge tailfins and holiday windows. Next were the floats representing, among other things, every Ohio festival you might imagine including the Princesses or Queens of Festivals for Tomato, Tobacco, Beef, Pork, Pumpkin, Swiss Cheese, Autumn Leaves, Railroad, and a good number of other topics. Our favorites were probably the Tomato and the Railroad. Oh, and the Land of Lakes Unit of WBCCI, the Airstream Owners Association, had a nice float with the adults all costumed in Swiss garb. We shopped a litte afterward and sampled and bought some of the local wines and cheeses.
The final event for us today was the Steintossen, or rock throwing. This event featured strong young women picking up a 75 pound rock (imagine just about a basketball size) and heaving it as far as they can. Okay, also featured were men picking up the 137 pound boulder (this is about the size of a large watermelon) and staggering a little as they run to the line and heft it away to the sandpit. Six or seven men were throwing and the apparent winner looks to be a student athlete of Ohio State University, a small college nearby. (just kidding! I heard they even have a football program of some sort) He heaved the stone over twelve feet, to the great dismay of larger and smaller-built men also competing. For all this work his prize will be ten dollars and a lot of fame.
September 28, 2007
Today is the first day of the Ohio Swiss Festival, celebrating the area's great contribution to the national production of fine Swiss cheese. Jim finished drying and storing his golf stuff and we rode the shuttle bus into Sugarcreek from Winklepleck Grove. We readily found the apple fritters and a front row bench seat on the children's parade route directly across from the grandstand. Jim found us a pair of "southern BBQ" sandwiches but the good folks in the Methodist Church food stand had no idea about combining red slaw with the BBQ sandwich and the sauces, while good, didn't seem southern at all.
Soon after our lunch the Kiddie's Parade started and was fun. Name a category and they seemed to have it. Some of these included best decorated tricycle, pet, kiddie car, wagon, stroller, float, and scooter; best Swiss costumed individual, and couple, in various age ranges from infants to ten years. The local high school marching band appeared as did last year's Little Swiss Misses and this year's hopefuls.
After this lengthy parade we toured the chocolate and ice cream shoppe, the crafts tent, and the local cheese producers' tables. It all tasted great! Deciding that we should save some taste treats for the second day of the festival, we caught the bus back to Winklepleck Grove. Jim had a nice time playing the original nine hole course before supper and is hoping for more opportunities for this before we leave. Deb supposes he is either liking how he is hitting the ball or is enjoying walking the links.
September 27, 2007
Jim arose early today, excited about playing golf the first time since the Dan Nicholas Park rally in NC the weekend we started this trip in August. Rain stopped, the sun hinted at showing up briefly, and Jim walked up to the golf club and arrived as it started sprinkling again. The Airstream group was 28 golfers who played two holes in the light rain, then thirteen holes in wonderful rain-free conditions before the rain returned with malice. The golfers played one more hole and left the course immediately after the first bolt of lightning struck somewhere too close for comfort. Jim and everything he carried was wringing wet so he took a hot shower and waited for the rain to stop before setting all the clubs, towels, and shoes out to dry. The rain was a torrential downpour and created quite the mess in the campground with the wheeled traffic generating a lot of messy mud.
We walked up to the bandstand for the homemade ice cream from a large hit and miss ice cream churn featuring two five gallon churns. The servings were huge and we enjoyed the ice cream greatly. We drove into Sugarcreek to the Post Office and picked up our forwarded mail and were glad to find only one outstanding bill due in the package. A few hours later Jim walked to our rally campground's open kettle cooking area and claimed our two large bowls of cooked beans with ham. Deb made fresh cornbread muffins while Jim stood in line for the beans, and we enjoyed a great hot supper before bed.
September 26, 2007
We enjoyed a tremendous thunderstorm last night with pounding rains for a short time. In our storm-tight cocoon we feel very snug and safe and so can enjoy the rains with a little less trepidation than while backpacking. Today was our third day of touring the businesses around Holmes County, OH. We visited a cheese maker, Warther Carvings museum and knife shop, Radio and TV museum, and finishing plant for local Amish craftsmen's furniture.
We started our final day of tours at the Broad Run Cheesehouse, a Blue Ribbon Swiss Cheese manufacter. The first room we entered was very warm. It contained the large vats where the milk is mixed with the yogurt to start the curlding process. It is heated to 150 degrees and left overnight. The next day the rennet is added and the cheese is "cooked" until it is curds and whey. After draining off the whey, the cheese is pressed into large 220 pound blocks to be cooled and hardened in a salt brine. After the salt bath, the flavor and color is added to get the various types of cheese. This was the most interesting and surprising fact that we learning about cheese: it all starts out the same. The different flavors, swiss, cheddar, gouda, yellow, orange, even the holes in the Swiss, are all added after the cheese is made.
Warthers Carving Museum and Knife Factory was the stop on the tour that we had been looking forward to most. Everyone had told us this is the "can't miss" place to see. The carvings by Ernest "Mooney" Warther were simply amazing to see. He carved 64 trains from walnut, ebony and ivory, some with over 8,000 pieces. We were impressed with the incredible attention to detail. For example, inside the Lincoln funeral train hangs a key that actually fits the lock in the wardrobe door. Not only is everything on the trains a perfect replica of the original, all the parts that should move do and they all still work today. Anyone interested in carving should try to visit this museum and see these "priceless works of art" as appraised by the Smithsonian.
Another museum we visited after lunch was the Auman Museum of Radio and TV. This is one man's 40 year effort to preserve the history of radio and TV. He has an amazing collection of radios, TVs and related memorabilia from the 1930's and 40's. We were most interested in the workings on the early mechanical televisions. It was also interesting to see the cost of these early models, most between $300-400, and the think in terms of today's dollars. These would have been pretty pricey in the 1930's. We enjoyed the excerpts of TV shows from these eras also that were simulated on some of the TVs. Especially interesting were the number of shows sponsored by cigarette brands.
Our last stop of the day was at Weavers of Sugarcreek Furniture. This store buys furniture make by many local Amish crafsmen and then brings it to their shop for finishing. We saw how it was stained, sealed, sanded and finished. The pieces in the store were absolutely beautiful and built to last many generations. Unfortunately, we could not consider buying any for our Airstream but will keep this in mind when we do look for furniture in the future. Returning from the furniture store, there was just time enough to freshen up and change into dinner clothes before hitching a ride with our next-door neighbors, Ashel and Ann Ammons from Clyde, NC, to an Amish home for dinner.
Maudie and Andy Raber feed up to 150 people when Sunday worship is at their house. They have been feeding other groups like ours since at least 1990. With our group they only had fifty-four Airstreamers to feed and they outdid themselves. They served us family style as we were seated on benches on either side of two long tables. We started with coffee and homemade bread with strawberry jam or apple butter. Two kinds of cole slaw served as our only green vegetable. Then we passed along our table, up both sides at the same time, mashed potatoes followed by gravy, baked chicken, thick slices of ham, fresh cut corn, and a cheesy noodle dish. Almost as soon as everyone was served, one of Maudie's seven daughters (all of her eight children are boys except seven) served up seconds to one end of the table for us to pass along to each other. Soon after, Maudie's daughters and a granddaughter (she has 28 grandchildren) announced the homemade pie flavors including custard, apple, rhubarb, raspberry, and peanut butter creme. Once we all had our dessert and more coffee served, Maudie entertained questions. This was interesting for us. She was very affable and open and managed this large group's questions wonderfully.
September 25, 2007
The day's tours included a stable supplying horses to the Amish, the home of Skinner's Salve, Mennonite-owned and Amish-staffed Schlabach Printers, an Amish harness shop, a country store with everything from candy to white gas-fired clothes irons, a maker of hit and miss and hand crank ice cream freezers, and a carriage and wagon wheel maker using machines from eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.
We started Tuesday morning at the Smokey Lane Stables. This farm had been a dairy farm but the owner had decided he would sell buggy horses to the Amish as there seemed to be a good demand for these. He trades in horses that did not make the cut for racing. This explains why most of the horses that we had seen on the roads around Sugarcreek appeared to be such beautiful long-legged horses. The Amish favor dark brown horses with black mane and small touches of white. He also had a cute minature horse in his stable.
The next stop on our tour took us down a narrow lane to a beautiful house sitting up on a hill. We were wondering what kind of business this could be as we parked in the driveway and realized that Skinner's Salve was run out of the "garage". The garage was oversized and had been added at the back of the house specifically for the business about a year ago. The Miller's who live here had contracted with the grandchildren of Lester Skinner, who formulated the salve, and are now producing and selling it. We saw how they heat, mix, bottle, cap and package the formula for distribution and sales. Some of our group helped with the packaging when things started backing up. We all received sample jars to try the healing and restorative powers of Skinner's Salve for ourselves.
After four other various businesses and lunch, we wound up at the Country Ice Cream Freezers. Here we saw how the crank assemblies for the hand crank and electric freezers were finished. We also saw the process for assembling and finishng the buckets. But the best part was the Putt Putt ice cream freezers, or as we call them Hit-and-Miss. They use the John Deere one cylinder to churn the ice cream which makes a unique sound as it putts along on the "misses" until it fires off on a "hit". Each hit throws the flywheel around with sufficient force to spin through several misses as it compresses the fuel before the next hit.
Our last stop of the day was the Stutzman Buggy-Shaft and Wheel Works. Here we watched as Mr. Stutzman retightened the iron band around a wooden wheel using a machine made in the 1700's. In fact nearly all of the machines in his shop were originally used in the 1700 and 1800's. He makes wheels for horse drawn wagons for many of the local Amish as well as museums around the world. Shown below is the machine that retightened the wheel.
As we walked into the shop Jim asked Mr. Stutzman who was learning the craft to continue Mr. Stutzman's work. Mr. Stutzman pointed into the shop and said, "that boy over there and my grandson there". These two powerful- looking men appeared well-suited for the hard work in the wheel works shop. The father, Mr. Stutzman's son, was working a huge wood-bending press to curve steamed 2"X3" pieces of seven feet long wood into semicircles. He would pull four pieces of the wood from the steamer, clamp them at their ends to a steel bed and operate a hydraulically driven motor to powerfully pull the boards' ends up to a U-shape. Then he clamps the ends together with heavy chain and removes the wood from the bender. After the wood cools and dries they unchain the clamps and saw the semicircles into perfectly half-round wheel rims. The grandson was operating a large lathe to turn the wagon wheel hubs and operated the auger to bore the shaft holes for the axles.
September 24, 2007
Our first day of tours with the Sugarcreek Rally group included an Amish maker of gazebos and lawn furniture, Yoders Amish Home, a carriage restorer, the Amish and Mennonite Heritage Center with the amazing Behalt mural, Berlin furniture, and a very large ice cream, grocery, and gift shop mall. At the first stop, we were impressed with the hydraulic powered tools used to make the lawn furniture. The Amish are totally self-sufficient and do not use any "purchased" AC electricity. They generate DC power with diesel generators to run the tools (very powerful) and 12 volt lights in the buildings (very dim). We were also impressed at how clean all of the workshops were kept.
At Yoder's Amish Home, we toured two homes, one preserved as an Amish family would have lived in it around the early 20th century and the other a more modern home. We saw traditional clothing, furnishings, and children's toys. At the end of the tour, we were offered home baked goodies and home-made jellies to purchase. After smelling the cinnamon rolls and cookies baking while we were touring, it was hard to resist.
After leaving the Amish homes, we drove to Woodlyn Coach. Here they restore carriages, sleighs, hitchwagon. They also have a museum of carriages and other vehicles they have collected including an unrestored Conestoga wagon in very nice condition from the 1850's, several restored wooden Studebaker buggies, and a couple gas powered cars from the very early 1900s. They have a huge Singer sewing machine that is 103 years old they use to sew harnesses and upholstery. The throat on the sewing machine is almost four feet deep. Museums as well as individuals bring their pieces here to have them restored by Woodlyn.
At the Amish and Mennonite Heritage Center, we learned a lot of the history from the"Behalt". The Behalt is a 10' x 265' painting, or cyclorama, illustrating the heritage of the Amish and Mennonite people from the Anabaptist beginning in Zurich, Switzerland, in 1525 to the present day. The word Behalt has German roots meaning "to keep or remember". An interesting fact we learned was that Anabaptist means to rebaptize and that the Anabaptists were the first to baptize or rebaptize as adults. The Behalt required fourteen years to finish because it is a huge work and because
Berlin Furniture was a small family run operation producing the most beautiful furniture in all of Amish country. Each piece is crafted by hand and finished to perfection. They will custom make furniture to a customer's designs and specifications. We were entertained by Reuben, the owner, on harmonica at the end of our tour and offered samples of his wife's cashew brittle.
Our final stop of the day was the Walnut Creek Cheese shop whose proprietors had generously donated cones of ice cream for all of us. The "Kid's" cones that we received were triple scopes and delicious. With all the wonderful Amish cooking, cheese and now ice cream, it's certain, we won't leave Sugarcreek hungry. We arrived back at Winklepleck Grove late in the day not sure we can keep this pace up for two more days of touring.
September 23, 2007
The rally hasn't really gotten started yet and already our heads are spinning with all the choices of things to do and see. At last night's announcements, we heard previews of the six full days of tours offered, all the activities planned for Thursday, and of the Swiss Festival on Friday and Saturday. All the tours sounded wonderful but we can only go on three of them on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. This is one of the reasons that people return to the Swiss Festival National Rally year after year. We picked out the "can't miss" places for us and then picked our tours based on those. We resigned ourselves to coming back to visit all the places we'll have to skip this year.
After planning our week and spending some time updating our website and catching up on e-mail, we took a walk around the Winklepleck Grove "campground". It's always amazing to see this many Airstreams parked together in one place. They had 280 registered and all but about 50 had arrived by mid-day today. Our campground is really just a large, grassy open field with an activity building large enough for our meetings and a small bandstand. We have limited electricity and water hookups. The electrical cords and hoses are strung out across the grounds so you have to watch your step. Our black water tank will get pumped once during the week we are here. This should work fine since we're out touring or at the Festival all day which will help extend our capacity. We're parked "rally style" which means that we're very close together so that they can get us all in here. We have maybe 5-6 feet between our trailer and the ones parked on either side of us. Our street side awning was out today but we could not roll it up once our neighbors had opened their windows. We had to leave it out for the night.
One other thing about this location, it's next to a golf course. Jim thinks this makes it really special. He went and hit balls on the driving range and is signed up for the gold tournament on Thursday. He could miss some of the hobby show, flea market, buggy rides, applebutter cooking, putt-putt (hit-or-miss) ice cream, popcorn, or ham and beans cooking that will be going on that day. Oh well, the sacrifices one must make for golf!
September 22, 2007
An Airstream Caravan is a collection of Airstream trailers headed in one direction and adhering to certain prescribed rules. A numbered caravan is a caravan sanctioned by the Wally Byam Caravan Club International, or WBCCI. Any numbered caravan must have at least ten members, ten days, five touring stops, and a trained leader. Planners arrange caravans to travel to regional or national events.
We formed an unnumbered caravan yesterday morning. This wasn't planned, didn't have ten members, no planned stops enroute, and certainly was not going to be ten days. We planned to drive 150 miles from the Airstream Company headquarters in Jackson Center, OH to Sugarcreek, OH for the 55th Ohio Swiss Festival. Our trailer and the Elledge's beautiful Airstream motorhome left Jackson Center and drove on backroads through lovely rolling hills of middle Ohio countryside. Above Upper Sandusky as we began the entry onto highway US 30 we saw two long Airstream trailers just ahead of us, already on the highway. Jim asked them on cb channel 14 whether they were heading for Sugarcreek. They not only were Sugarcreek-bound but also were both Ohioans and promised us a very interesting scenic tour enroute. The Graws and Greenways were great hosts for our short journey. They at times narrated sites and history along the way, adding fun and interest to our drive. Jim joking said highway 30 was just too smooth and easy-driving, couldn't we please get off. Our leaders answered fully -- we soon found ourselves on a sixteen feet wide paved county road rolling very close to farmhouse porches and somewhat regularly pausing for a clear spot to pass the occasional horse-drawn black buggy. This is obviously Amish country -- the plain black clothing, men's full beards, and houses without electricity were unusual for us but perfectly at home here. We saw a few horse-drawn disc & harrow in action and lots of laundry waving in the breeze. As tempting as it is to snap pictures of the Amish people we have been thoroughly warned off to respect the Amish people's beliefs against having their images recorded.
Our arrival to Sugar Creek was exciting. The Ohio Swiss Festival was started to promote the Swiss Cheese Industry in Ohio and in the Village of Sugarcreek. The area has eight Swiss Cheese factories and is said to be the center of Ohio's Swiss Cheese Industry. The area has a large Amish population, supporting many very successful businesses in buggy making, leather crafts, furniture making, and agriculture. The Land-of-Lakes of Ohio Unit of WBBCI Airstream Owners' Club has organized and sponsored an annual Swiss Festival National Rally 45 years. This rally features the Ohio Swiss Festival and adds, for Airstreamers, tours of Amish schools and homes and a large number of factories, businesses, and other attractions in the area. We are looking forward to the week's activities and learning so much about this vibrant area of Ohio.
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