Where were you in 1969?

From guest blogger, Vicki VanNatta

For some of you, 1969 was ‘before your time’….way before your time. For some of you, 1969 was part of the ‘good old days’ — dating, less responsibility and more fun – and those great cars: Chevrolet Camaro, Pontiac GTO, the Ford Mustang.  Others were in the throes of raising your children, dealing with how long your teenage son’s sideburns were, making sure his hair didn’t touch his collar. And were your daughter’s skirts down to her fingertips when her arms were at her sides?   Infractions meant they would be sent home from school or reprimanded.  Wearing slacks or jeans to school? Forget about it. It wasn’t happening.  It was a different time in Walnut Creek, Ohio.

What was happening in Walnut Creek, Ohio in 1969

In 1969, Dan and Shirley Lehman had just partnered with Emanuel Mullet and Bob and Sue Miller to purchase Der Dutchman Restaurant on the square in Walnut Creek. I was a teenager, and I began my very first job as a dishwasher at Der Dutchman Restaurant. A paycheck! I earned a paycheck!

Original Der Dutchman Restaurant

The original Der Dutchman Restaurant in Walnut Creek, Ohio

Bert and Emma Hershberger had started the small 75-seat restaurant in what was previously a hardware store. The business was doing well, but if you’ve ever been in the restaurant business, you know the demands put on your time and energy can be draining.  It was those demands that led Bert and Emma to sell Der Dutchman Restaurant to Dan Lehman, Emanuel Mullet and Bob Miller, owners of Dutch Corporation, formed for the specific purpose of purchasing the Restaurant.

It started with one restaurant

Forty-five years later, that 75-seat restaurant is now a 650-seat restaurant that has undergone six major renovations and expansions. What was once known as Dutch Corporation is now Dutchman Hospitality Group, and that ‘group’ includes two Carlisle Inns, six gift shops, a retail food market, a wholesale food and hospitality supply company, live theater productions, and not just one 650-seat restaurant, but six, with locations in Ohio and Sarasota, Florida, plus a sister location in Middlebury, Indiana.

45 years later…still the same traditions

Der Dutchman Walnut Creek

Der Dutchman Walnut Creek as it appears today.

Forty-five years later, high school freshmen boys might have their hair below their shirt collar and most girls are wearing jeans and shorts to school, but Der Dutchman Restaurant is still on the square in Walnut Creek.  Der Dutchman is still serving real mashed potatoes, delicious pan-fried chicken, dressing, noodles and more than twenty kinds of pie.  Their traditional menu hasn’t changed, but at each Dutchman Hospitality restaurant you will find a variety of menu items including delicious salads, stir fry, and salmon plus other regional and local favorites – just in case you aren’t craving mashed potatoes on any given day.

Relax, visit with each other

What you won’t find is a large screen TV over your head in the dining room. You won’t find loud music playing and you won’t find a bar. But you will find a place where you can sit down, look across the table and actually have a conversation about the day or just quietly relax and enjoy.  Dutchman Hospitality restaurants, shops, and inns are all about fellowship and food around the table, a sense of peace and comfort during an overnight getaway, and delightful shopping for your home, your friends, and your family.

Continuing to grow and adapt

Forty-five years later, I’m not washing dishes at Der Dutchman, but Dutchman Hospitality continues to grow and serve the six communities they now call home. Throughout the annual seasons, Dutchman Hospitality employs approximately 1300 individuals who speak a variety of languages; arriving from many parts of the US and the world, Dutchman Hospitality employees work together each day to make sure everyone eating at their tables, staying at their inns, and shopping in their shops enjoys the traditional foods, simple comforts, and rural charm of the Midwestern Amish and Mennonite communities.

Dutchman Hospitality remembers 1969 as the year it all began.  No matter where you were that year, 2014 is good year to visit any of the Dutchman Hospitality restaurants, shops or inns. Bring a friend, your family, or your neighbors. Gather ‘round. It’s time to make some memories of your own.

Exploring the German Culture Museum in Walnut Creek

The Old German Culture Museum

The Old German Culture Museum still stands in Walnut Creek.

Holmes County, home to the world’s largest Amish community, has its share of attractions and shopping. But as of last May, another venue reopened in the village of Walnut Creek. The German Culture Museum has been open in the town since the early 1980’s with a collection of historical items pertaining to the arrival of the Amish in the area, Amish origins in Europe, as well as local traditions and lore.

Housed in a small house where President William McKinley once slept, the original German Culture Museum was a the brainchild of several of Walnut Creek township’s history fanatics, particularly the Schlabach Family, Wayne Hostetler and Roscoe Miller. With the blessings of the Mennonite Information Center (known for the Behalt cyclorama), the team started assembling collections of items that belonged to the early pioneers of Walnut Creek, as well as photos, books, and other antiques. Stanley Kaufman, a former art professor living in Berlin, expertly arranged each room of the little house to describe different aspects of life in the township from the early 1800’s to the present day. Guided tours were available during the weekend.

As years passed, the Museum directors saw that the little blue building would never be large enough to house all of the collection. There was no place to display a surrey, wagons or the numerous local furniture pieces that were housed in two dark damp storage facilities. The old building was neither climate-controlled, weather-tight or handicap accessible – all problematic issues. When land was donated by the Schlabach Family for a community building, the idea began to circulate to relocate the German Culture Museum.

In May of 2007, work began on a brand new Walnut Creek Community building to house a branch of the Holmes County library, a community meeting room and the new home of the German Culture Museum. Entirely paid for by a community fund drive, the building was completed and work began on moving the extensive and fragile collection from the old museum to its new basement home across the street. It took quite some time and a lot of grunt work to clean, build displays and arrange the antiques, but the museum reopened in the summer of 2010.

Jonas "Der Weiss" Stutzman Reenactor

Larry Miller, local resident, as "Der Weiss". Der Weiss means "The White One" in the Pennsylvania Dutch dialect.

Rooms have been built to feature the old Kitchen, Bedroom (complete with rope bed and straw tick mattress), Dining Room, Textiles and Tool Collection. In addition, you will be able to see a small replica of a European Hiding Place where Mennonites hid from persecutors during the Reformation and the completely restored and Rockefeller Surrey. A museum feature is a replica of the cabin built by first settler in Walnut Creek, Jonas Stutzman who was known as “Der Weiss.” On a visit, you may even experience a conversation with the old fellow in the form of a Der Weiss reenactor.

Oh, by the way, Ohio’s newest covered bridge over the Walnut Creek has been named Stutzman Crossing in honor of Jonas. To find out why Jonas was called “Der Weiss,” view an interview with “Der Weiss” at the Grand Opening of the bridge last November.

At the new museum location, you’ll be now be able to tour at your own pace, but feel free to ask questions of the museum attendants. Expect to spend an hour there (or more if you are really a history buff), and take your time to view all the fascinating variety of items on display. You won’t need to be a local or a member of the older generation to enjoy the experience – all ages and school groups will find this to be a step back into time.

As of spring 2011, the museum plans to be open on Saturdays, with possible additional days throughout the week. Since the museum is staffed entirely by volunteers, entrance fees are on a donation basis – a great idea for families on a budget. To inquire about hours or book special tours, please call 330-893-2510

If you’re looking for an economical and educational activity, the  German Culture Museum should be a planned stop on your trip to Walnut Creek or Amish country. The museum is located on Olde Pump Street, just around the corner from the well-known Der Dutchman Restaurant in the basement of the brand-new library building. It is handicap-accessible and parking is free.

Ohio Swiss Festival in Sugarcreek – Cheese, Fritters and Parades

Steiner Swiss Cheese Ohio

Swiss Cheese is a big part of the Festival

For those of us living in the Sugarcreek area and the eastern part of Holmes County, it’s that time of year again – Swiss Festival time! It’s always scheduled to start the last week in September. Most of the natives have Swiss ancestry so it’s a celebration of the Swiss culture of the area that made Sugarcreek the “Little Switzerland of Ohio. It’s also the unofficial kick-off to the the fall season in Ohio’s Amish Country.

Our Swiss background

When western Tuscarawas county was first settled in the early 1800’s, many of those first settlers were of German and Swiss descent. Most of those immigrants were expert farmers bringing their knowledge to the American frontier. As the forests were tamed by those farmers, the lush pasture lands and deep rich soils of the Ohio valley produced excellent fodder for dairy cattle.

Thus evolved the Swiss cheese houses that have made the area famous. In the early days, there was an abundance of milk, but little way to sell those products. Roads at that time were little more than two rough (or muddy) wagon ruts through pristine forest. Soon the skilled cheesemaking families began to emmigrate from Switzerland to the Sugarcreek area because of the ample supply of milk. Small cheesehouses popped up everywhere – close enough for local farmers to haul their filled milk cans by wagon to the local cheesemaker.

Dairying has come a long way since those days (although there are still Amish farmers who still sell their milk in old-fashioned cans), and the cheesehouses have consolidated into efficient cheese factories producing tons of cheese every year. Each has their own special recipe, and the Swiss names like Guggisberg, Steiner, and Dauwalder still dominate the local cheese industry.

The Swiss Village and Tom Miller

Tom Miller mural at Der Dutchman

Tom Miller Mural at Der Dutchman in Walnut Creek

Inspired by the houses on a trip to Switzerland, local sign painter, house painter and self-taught artist, Tom Miller painted a Swiss mural on a building he owned in Sugarcreek. After that, many businesses came to his door step with requests for similar murals.

The local families took considerable pride in their heritage and eventually businesses in Sugarcreek began an effort to model their downtown after the Swiss villages in the “Old Country”. Swiss architecture became commonplace with it’s chalet-style construction and decoration. With the addition of Tom’s murals, the movers and shakers of the early 1950’s began a push for a celebration of everything Swiss. The Swiss Festival was born in 1953, one of the longest running festivals in the state of Ohio.

By the way, if you plan to go “mural hunting”, you can still see many of Tom’s works at the businesses of Sugarcreek and Holmes county. They are still visible at the Sugarlane IGA, Huntington Bank, Dutch Valley Restaurant, Beachy’s Chalet, McDonalds (one inside, one by the drive-through) Sugarcreek Lumber and the former Goshen Dairy building. In Holmes County, you can see three murals at Der Dutchman Restaurant.

Food at the  Swiss Festival

First on the list to do is eat the FOOD! Of course, you have to take home a few pounds of the nation’s finest Swiss cheese. From fried Swiss cheese to wine-tasting, there really is something for everyone here. In the spirit of the community, a host of local churches and organizations have fundraisers and spend hours of time preparing their signature meals – Trail bologna sandwiches (topped with Swiss cheese, of course), creamed chicken, soups, barbequed chicken, a fish fry, etc.

One of the premier dishes at the Swiss Festival are the apple fritters from the First Mennonite Church. Every year, they sell thousands of warm, freshly-fried apple fritters, generously topped with powdered sugar. Volunteers work day and night coring and peeling 15 to 20 bushels of Macintosh apples. Their fluffy homemade batter is a tightly-held secret recipe, and with good reason.  The results are absolutely heavenly. Be patient, the lines can be long, but it is well worth the wait!

Steinstossen – “Stein” = Stone, “Tossen” = throwing

Throwing the StoneThe Festival holds the record as the longest running competition for Swiss “stone throwing”. Contestants in the Men’s division of the Steinstossen hurl a huge stone weighing 138 pounds during two-hour periods beginning at 3:00 on Saturday and Sunday. The Women’s stone weighs 75 lbs. Contestants begin on a 20-foot runway, hurling the rock into a 4-inch-deep (100 mm) sand pit. The winners at each session win prizes.

Music and Parades

Learn to Polka! Grammy-nominated acts like Del Sinchak and other popular polka bands like Hank Haller are perennial acts. Contemporary groups usually play on Saturday evenings. Opportunities to try yodeling (it’s harder than you think) may arise. Look for a traditional Swiss alphorn or two.

The Kiddie Parade is on Friday afternoon and might be the cutest parade you can imagine. Parents and grandparents go all out to creatively dress their Little Swiss Misses and Misters in the traditional red, white and black Swiss colors. Bragging rights are on the line since prizes are awarded! On carefully decorated mini floats and wagons, they march down Main Street, often with equally costumed pets. The pets may be less than pleased, but everyone else loves it.

The big attraction on Saturday afternoon is the Grande Parade, featuring antique cars, local bands, horse hitches, floats. The Swiss Festival Queen and Court lead the way, as well as royalty from festivals all over the state. On occasion, there may be a celebrity or two in the parade. Main Street and the famous brink-lined Maple Street fill up quickly – locals will claim their viewing spots the night before.