A few of us decided early in the year that it would be a good idea if we could put together a caravan to take advantage of a day early parking at the Sugarcreek Rally. We needed at least five units to make it work. So, I announced at the last Georgia Unit rally in Helen that a meeting would be held at a certain time for anyone interested in going to Sugarcreek.
Wow! When meeting time came, the room was full, and by the time the meeting was over, we had twelve signed up, and as word spread, within a week the number was up to eighteen.
General parking for the rally was to begin on Saturday, September 25th. But as a caravan we could go in a day early on Friday, the 24th. Some of us met on Thursday, the 23rd at Fort Chiswell RV Park in Max Meadows, Virginia - about half the distance to Sugarcreek from Young Harris. The plan was for all eighteen to meet at "The Brickyard" in Sugarcreek on Friday afternoon.
"The Brickyard" is just what it says - a brickyard. With its large parking area, it is a convenient place to rendezvous before entering the rally site - Winklepleck Park - about a half mile away.
This rally - for Airstreamers only - is one of the most popular rallies in the Wally Byam club (WBCCI). Sugarcreek is on the edge of the largest Amish community in the world - Holmes County, Ohio. So we get a good look at this amazing old world culture, and we get to help celebrate the Swiss Festival which is a long running promotion for local cheese making plants. There is lots to see and do, and there's always good entertainment.
And so begins this daily journal......
Thursday, September 23rd - We left home at 7:30am for the 300 mile trip to the Fort Chiswell (VA) RV Park. Early going was slow through the mountains and patchy fog. After a breakfast stop at McDonalds in Franklin, we continued on to Asheville, taking I-26 north through some magnificent scenery to I-81. Not much traffic on I-26, but the constant roar of semis on I-81 made up for it. Fort Chiswell is near the intersection of I-81 and I-77, a convenient overnight stop before heading north on I-77. Four other Airstreamers met us at Fort Chiswell - The Creightons, the Clements, the Coles, and the Kerns. We all gathered under the trees for some socializing and snacks before retiring early before an early departure on Friday.
Friday, September 24th - Needing to get to Sugarcreek before a 300pm parking deadline, we left Fort Chiswell before good daylight at 6:45am. I-77 through West Virginia passes through some of the most rugged mountains in the eastern United States - a beautiful drive. We had eighteen Airstream units due to meet us at “The Brickyard” to go into the rally as the Georgia Caravan. As the caravan leader, I had to stagger our arrival so that we didn’t clog up the entrance road too long at a time. So, I was anxious to get to “The Brickyard” first to get us organized. It wasn’t long before they all started coming in. We were all in and parked by 2:15pm. “The Brickyard” is a large parking area near a brick warehouse in a convenient spot to gather before entering Winklepleck Park - the rally site - about a half mile away.
On Friday evening, several of us gathered at Beachy’s restaurant in Sugarcreek for our first Amish meal. The weather was warm with a lot of wind and a little rain during the night.
Saturday, September 25th - At 9:30am we were off to Charm and Keim Lumber Co. with Bob and Kay Cole. I can’t describe the array of exotic wood there along with scads of everything else - 120,000 sq. feet of floor space in the store. Came away with a supply of red padouk, yellow amarillo, black ebony, and hard maple. We spent about an hour at Keim, then went across the street to Grandma’s Homestead Restaurant for lunch. After lunch we stopped at Guggisburg Cheese, Herschberger’s Bakery and Market, then two flea markets. We also picked up a rhubarb pie at Beachy’s ordered the previous night.
This was general parking day at the rally. Looks like attendance is down a bit from previous years. By the end of the day there were 159 units on site. The official opening day ceremony of this 48th year of the rally will be tomorrow (Sunday) night.
At 7:00pm everyone gathered in the pavillion for announcements and tour instructions. Carmel Porter, the rally chairperson, with her classy sense of humor, found a way to make the announcements interesting, and Jim Moss as usual made the tours and the tour instructions a thing of interest too.
Jim also introduced the evening speaker - Jo Ann Herschberger, a native of Holmes County. Though not Amish she had an Amish heritage and shared her story about Amish life with great emotion. She held everyone spellbound for over an hour, I think everyone left with a greater understanding of what it means to be Amish and how hard it is to leave the Amish faith as her parents and husband had been compelled to do.
The weather is very nice, cooled down into low 70s and clear, with temperature in 40s predicted for the night.
Sunday, September 26th - It was an overcast cool day. Church service in the pavillion at 10:00am. The preacher was an Airstreamer who spoke on how God speaks to us through the Bible, bemoaning the fact that most people in today's world don't read and listen.
The Creightons and Sara's sister Nancy joined us for lunch in the motorhome.
The Cambridge Band made their annual appearance during the afternoon. It was too chilly to sit outside, so they set up inside the pavillion for their performance - always animated and good.
Tickets were sold for the Amish dinners at 4:00pm. We bought a pair for Tuesday evening at Maudi Raber's home - price up to $15 this year.
Opening ceremonies tonight were the usual - U.S., Canadian, and Land-o-Lakes flags presented; the two national anthems sung; the pledge of allegiance; and a prayer for the rally. After routine announcements, past and present National, Region, and Unit officers were introduced - a boring necessity - and first timers at the rally recognized.
Then the rally was officially declared open by the rally chairperson, Carmel Porter.
The chairman of the Swiss Festival made a short presentation and invitation to that event.
Then came the entertainment. It was a husband wife combo - Dick and Shirley - who sang gospel and bluegrass oldies (real old) accompanying themselves, with Shirley playing a mandolin, and Dick playing a guitar. On a scale of 1 - 10, they'd rank around a 3 - not outstanding.
Monday, September 27th - There are seven tours scheduled for each of the next three days. So, the chore is to select which of the seven to take each day. Each tour consists of five or six stops plus lunch. For example, we chose Tour #2 for today that includes Stoney Point School, Abe's Caskets, Jacob's Show Horses, the Warther Museum, and a funeral home which promised to be a surprise. Each tour has a leader who does a running commentary on CB as we drive from place to place. Tour #1 leaves the rally site at 8:35am; Tour #2 leaves at 8:45am, etc.
With this procedure there's no way to control the number of people or cars on each tour. Our Tour #2 had 18 vehicle, and I counted 72 people in the little Amish school. Surprisingly, it went pretty smooth. There were 29 students in the one room school housing eight grades - one first grader and one 4th grader, The children all introduced themselves after singing us a song. Of the 29 children, probably 20 of them were Millers. The little girls all wore black bonnets. The little boys all had identical hair cuts - bowl cuts.
A short distance away was Abe's Caskets. Abe Yoder has over 130 acres of farm and pasture land. His seven children are all grown or deceased, so he does it all himself. The casket and funeral business is a sideline. He also raises Belgian horses and milks a herd of about 30 cows - a busy man.
Jacob's Show Horses is a completely different type business. Randy Jacobs is not Amish. He trains quarter horses for show. These horses are owned by people all over the U.S. Randy and his two helpers feed the horses twice a day with a very specific foods including a supplement that he also sells. They work them out at specific times in their indoor arena. They bathe and vacuum them twice a day, then transport them to shows, charging the owners a fee for all this. The real basis for the business is winning shows. Winning first place at a show increases the value of a horse, so the owner makes money by the increase in value when they sell. Sounds kind of risky, but it's obvious that Randy has done very well with the business.
The picture is of a prize pig that has been raised on Randy's food supplement. I think he said the pig was worth about $10,000.
All 72 of us swarmed into the Hog Heaven BBQ Restaurant in New Philadelphia for lunch. They were ready for us, and it didn't take long to get everybody fed. It was good too.
Then we went to the Warther Museum. This has been a tour event at the rally for all 48 years of the rally's existence, and it is special. Ernest Warther was born in Dover, Ohio in 1885, the son of Swiss immigrants. His father died when he was three years old. Because of the family's struggle to survive, he was only able to attend school through the second grade. But what a genius he became with this carving. Carving steam locomotives and trains were his greatest achievements culminating in the carving of the Lincoln funeral train at the age of 80. (See picture) He planned the project so that he finished it on the 100th anniversary of Lincoln's assassination in 1965. Some of the locomotives contain upwards of 10,000 moving parts, all carved out of either black walnut and ivory or black ebony and ivory. The funeral train is carved out of ebony and ivory from the eyeteeth of a hippopotamus (the finest ivory available).
In addition to the trains he whittled out multiple sets of pliers. He loved children and would stand on the street corner and entertain them by whittling a pair of pliers out of small block of wood. Expanding on this he would take the first set of pliers and make two more out of the handles of the first. He carried this to an unbelievable level by taking a block of walnut with predetermined shape and size, and after 31,000 cuts created a pliers tree with 511 sets of working pliers which when folded back up into the original shape without one splinter missing.
An admission fee is charged for the museum, but the main income source for the family now is the production of kitchen knives. If you buy a knife there, they will sharpen it for free any time. We took a handful of knives in for re-sharpening that were bought on previous visits. One paring knife had a broken blade which they replace free of charge.
The Warther Museum is an incredible place. This was probably our 12th visit and hopefully not our last. Every time we see or learn something not noticed before.
The last stop of Tour #2 was at the Toland-Herzig Funeral Home in Dover. We didn't know what to expect there. But, it was a complete surprise. The owner - John Herzig - collects funeral programs and memorabilia of famous people. Since 1996 he has collected some 1200 items, and he had a story to tell about how he acquired a great many of them. The hobby fits right into his business as a funeral director. Most of things are displayed in tasteful cabinets and on the walls of the funeral home. He calls his collection "Famous Endings," and because of the interest his collection has generated, the funeral home has become a tourist attraction with tour buses coming regularly.
Back at the rally the evening's entertainment was a couple who own a music store in Cincinati, They demonstrated a variety of stringed instruments - several banjos, guitars, violins, a zyther, a ukelele, a ukelute(?), several mandolins, and some others I don't remember the name of. They called themselves the Appalachian Grass, playing mostly bluegrass with only a couple of vocals. There must have been at least thirty different instruments on display, most being valuable antiques - some worth several thousand dollars. The lady mostly played the violin, the finale being the Orange Blossom Special.
Door prizes followed with items donated mostly by local stores or restaurants. It was 10:00pm before we got back to the motorhome - a long day,
Tuesday, September 28th - Rain, rain, rain,,,,, It rained all night, and it looks as if it will continue all day. Haven't heard a weather report, so don't know about activities today or tomorrow. We'll see.....
Discouraged by the rain, we decided to forego the regular tours, then after an hour or so the rains let up. So, we took off on errands on our own. Our first stop was at the Krestview Furniture plant. They're now making yard furniture out of a poly material similar to Trex flooring with many colors. My quest was for some of their scraps to try out for bowls. I now have red, white, blue, green, yellow and gray poly scraps.
We then drove over to the little village of Trail for some of Troyer's Original Trail Balogna. So... Tony, we've got you covered.
Keim Lumber Co. is the hardwood and hardware store that I like so much, It's where I get most of the exotic woods for my bowls. It's a huge complex, but I had never been back in their millwork area. Last Saturday while there I asked about a tour of the shops and made an appointment for a private tour for 2:00 today. So, Frederick, Joe Kessler, and I made the trip to Charm for that. What an amazing operation! The upfront store is a three story building with 120,000 square feet on each floor. Huge, but the mill works occupies another building with about twice that much space. A young Amishman is in charge of some 300 employees working back there (350 employees overall). They were taking in roughcut lumber and processing it into beautiful molding and specialty items at the rate of about 15,000 board feet per day. They have several thousand molding profiles that they can use, each with corresponding molding heads for the machines formed in their own machine shop. It was hard to keep my hands out of their scrap bins that contained maple, oak, walnut scraps. With all of that there was no dust - in the air or on the floor - and quality control was first class. This business started 100 years ago serving just the Amish community, but they have grown far beyond that. Orders now come from all over the country, mostly via their internet website. They answer 1,000 to 1,500 phone calls each day.
We got home from Keim just in time to line up for the Amish dinner at Maudi Raber's.
52 of us lined the tables in Maudi's basement for a typical Amish meal - mashed potatoes, gravy, broasted chicken, country fried steak, dressing, green beans, cole slaw, fresh bread, and choice of pies for dessert.
The evening entertainment was a repeat performance (from last year) of The Maidens Four - four energetic sisters who played violins, violas, drums, and guitars. It was Celtic music with a fast beat. Very good.
Wednesday, September 29th - Happy Birthday Elisabeth!! Have a great day!
No rain today. The day began with a lot of fog and cool, but the sun soon broke through. Nice to see for a change. Still cool. Decided to join Tour #4 which left the park at 9:05am. Our first stop was to see a fretwork display in a private garage in Sugarcreek. The craftsman spent months cutting some of the works of art in a very small shop.