This was our second visit to Sugarcreek and the Swiss Festival Airstream Rally, this time sharing the experience with our friends, Frances and Lamar Cockrell.
Thursday, September 22, 1994 -
Mileage - 33080
We left our mountain about 8:30am heading west on US76 to Blairsville, then US19 north to Murphy, then west on US64 to Cleveland,Tennesse. There we got on I-75 to travel northward to Lexington, KY. We met the Frances and Lamar Cockrell in Lexington, at the campground next to the Kentucky Horse Park. They came up from a week's visit with Frances' brother Charles in Gulf Shores, Alabama. Our rendezvous point had been planned in advance, but neither of us knew exactly when the other would arrive. As only conincidence would have it, we arrived at the campground at the same time and parked together. From Lexington, we drove to Cincinnati, then took I-71 eastward to Columbes, then I-70 eastward twoard Cambridge. At Ann's insistence we took a detour at Zanesville to go north 25 miles to the little town of Dresden, Ohio. And what a sidetrip that was. Dresden is the home of the Longaburger Basket Compnay. We parked the rigs on a side street and walked downtown to learn that we had about 30 minutes to get out to the plant if we wanted to catch the last tour of the day. The plant is about 5 miles outside of town. The plant employs some 4,000 people who make 30,000 baskets a day. The baskets are all hand woven around some 75 syles of forms. One of the more incredible things about the plant was the fact that the baskets are all ordered and paid for before they are made. Prices range from $25 to $200, and none are sold in stores. Except for one style called a tour basket that is sold in the company gift shop, all baskets are sold through a direct sales organization of some 21,000 representatives.
From Dresden we drove on to Coshocton for an overnight stay at the lake Park campground before
going in to the Sugarcreek rally on Saturday morning.
At Coshocton, we met Bud and Marie Shinabarger in the Lake Park campground. They were friends from the Maple Leaf Trail caravan in 1991. They were also headed for Sugarcreek. Bud told us that Rosie Maynard was living alone and doing quite well. She still drives and never misses church on Sunday. Rosie is the widow of Bus Maynard who led WBCCI caravans for many years before his death in 1993.
On Saturday morning we left camp early for the drive on into Sugarcreek. We came upon the first Amish horsedrawn buggy between New Bedford and Baltic, then encountered five or six more before arriving at the rally site at Winklepleck Grove. Despite weather forecasts to the contrary it was a beautiful clear day, and the rolling farm country with numerous horses and cows looked good. The abundant maple trees were beginning to show good color.
We were welcomed to the rally by PA announcement and a raucous bell ringing. In a short time we were parked and going through our "goodie" bag to see when and what activities were to be offerred. It wasn't long before we saw Marcella Cottrell and Donna Gyde, more friends from the Maple Leaf caravan. This is the 32nd consecutive year for the Sugarcreek rally. We hung around the rally site for most of Saturday just relaxing, visiting, playing dominoes and dirty uno. We drove down the road to Dutch Valley restaurant for the noon meal, getting lost because of a new road that now runs to the north of the restaurant. The meal was Amish cooking, tasty and filling.
Entertainment for the evening was a trio of female singers - Dee Ladd and the Bogart sisters. They put on a good show, singing old favorites, and a mixture of country and gospel music. We saw Delia and Tom Lambert from the Maple Leaf and the Landells from Tampa Bay. Gene and Shirley Stubbs, our International president and first lady, were there along with Ken Van Horn, a former president, and his wife. There were just a shade under 300 trailers on site.
On Sunday we attended church services in the meeting room. There were nearly 400 people in attendance. Most of the restaurants in the area were closed on Sunday so we had an in house meal, then went for a ride through the countryside. Heading west on Hwy39 we drove through Walnut Creek, Berlin, then Charm and Farmerstown before circling back to Sugarcreek. There was no one in the fields as the Amish people observed their Sabbath. There were quite a few buggies on the road, probably families coming from church. They hold their Sunday church services in the homes of members, changing venue each Sunday. We were told that those services at times last 2 to 3 hours.
The rains predicted for Saturnday arrived on Sunday afternoon.
Then on Sunday night we had a real treat as a gospel music group from Cadiz, Ohio called "GTL" (The Glory To The Lord singers) sang for over an hour with perfect harmony. Four men and a lady - an accountant, a dentist, an engineer, a car salesman, and a pastor. Music just doesn't get any better. And the message that came through was the salvation story told in song by five people who sang with such sincerity that there was no doubt they really believed it.
Monday, September 26, 1994 - The day began with beautiful sunshine that lasted all day. Our first scheduled tour was to the Warther Museum. We were the fourth of six such tours leaving the campground on Monday morning. As each tour was announced, tour leaders from the host unit were ready to take a convoy of Suburbans to their appointed spots on the quarter hour. We left promptly at 9:45am headed for the museum in Dover. This was the 3rd time for us to visit the place, but it was still an awesome experience to see the accomplishments of that one man.
On Monday evening we ate at the Yoder home, a meal the family served to 50 of us Airstreamers. The meal was baked chicken, ham, mashed potatoes, noodles, cole slaw, dressing, homemade bread, a variety of pies, and date pudding. Mrs. Miller and her daughter, Susan Yoder, prepared the meal. It was served by the whole family, Susan's husband, Abe, and two of her six sons. After the meal, Abe took us out to his shop to show how he made caskets for the community. Abe gets $350 for his caskets which seems little enough, but that also includes providing the horsedrawn hearse to transport the casket (with body) from the undertaker to the home where the funeral is held, then to the cemetery.
Monday evening entertainment was an amateur string quartet called the String-a-Longs. They were lively and pretty good, but not up to the level of the gospel group the night before. We won a door prize - a container of creamed honey and a $5 gift certificate to a local restaurant. There were some pretty good door prizes, but that was not one of them.
Tuesday, September 27, 1994 - Still stuffed from the meal of the night before, we were not too interested in eating on this day. Despite wet weather, activities at the rally continued. We took a rally sponsored tour to Yoder's Amish Farm in the morning. Even though we had been to this farm four years ago, it was still interesting. It was a different tour guide with a different slant on things. Her husband grew up in an Amish home but decided to leave the faith before joining the church. She therefore knew a lot about the Amish customs. She showed us through two houses, an older one and a more modern one. The houses were furnished just as if there was a family living there, with clothes in the closets. Our guide explained the clothes and restrictions on dress. The women's clothes are fastened with straight pins, the men's with buttons. This was a working farm with a barn full of animals and very interesting.
Following the farm tour, we drove to the little town of Wilmot and lunched at The Amish Door. Following that we visited two cheese factories. The countryside along the roads going to these places was as interesting as the destinations. The farms and farmhouses are all neatly kept with bright flowers all about. Due to the rain, I guess, no one was working in the fields.
Tuesday evening entertainment was a seventeen man singing group which called itself the Wayneaires Barbershop chorus. The men were of a wide range of ages, all with enthusiasm and good harmony that made for a good show.
On Wednesday we toured the Wendell August Forge, an unusual type of tourist provider. The tour began with a short video giving the history of the company, telling how the company came to be like it is today, making things for a tourist gift store. Then we went through the plant where every phase is on exhibit. First we saw the artist that designs and creates the steel dies as he chiseled a scene showing an Amish house. Once the die is complete a sheet of aluminum is clamped over the die and hammered until the die design is stamped into the aluminum. Then the surplus metal is cut away, leaving a coaster, or plate, or tray, or christmas tree ornament. The piece is then put into a fire where the design is enhanced with a darker color. It then goes to another worker who polishes the high points. From there the piece is formed into a slight bowl. They also use bronze as a raw material. After that introduction, the tour is dismissed into the gift shop to see all the different things that are for sale. The exhibition is a smart marketing tool. One would probably not look twice at the plates, etc. otherwise. It was all most interesting.
After arriving back in camp, Lamar and I went to the little hardware store down the road from Winklepleck Grove. This hardware store makes no effort to sell to anyone other than local farmers, True to Amish beliefs, there is no electric power in the store, no lights. Yet, there was a large display of electric tools for sale. Just one of the many contradicitons among the Amish. Telephones are another paradox. They can't have telephones in their homes, but they don't hesitate to use the phones in booths along the roads. They can also use things in their homes that run on batteries such as fans, etc. When the batteries run down, they take them to an "English" shop for recharging. Generators are also acceptable.
Entertainment on Wednesday night was a local minister who sang a terrific message with his 7 year old daughter, showing the audience what he usually does for a prison minsitry. He was a last minute substitute for the scheduled program that had to be cancelled, yet no one felt shortchanged.
Thursday, September 29, 1994 - Woke up with a sore throat - first time in a long while.
This was the day for the golf tournament. My tee time was 8:21am. Placed in a foursome with Cliff, Charlie, and Bill, we headed out in the cold wind to try our hand. We were all about the same in lack of golfing talent, all scoring over 100. My score was 103. Aside from the cold, the sun was out bright, and the fellowship was good. There were some beautiful sights out over the hills from the high points on the golf course.
Back in camp, the Rabers were making "putt-putt" ice cream for the group. They had a big churn being turned by a gasoline engine. It was good, but the line was long. Meanwhile our hosts were making big pots of beans and ham for supper in camp.
Took a ride up to the little town of Kidron. Had heard about an Amish hardware store there. Went up a back road way, seeing several farmers out in the fields plowing behind three horse teams. Away from the busy-ness of the main highways, the farms and Amish way of life are easier to enjoy. The farms are exceptionally clean and neat, and the farmhouses all are bedecked with flowers - a lot of marigolds. The hardware store was something of a disapointment, pretty small and geared for tourists as so many things were, but the ride through the back country was worth it.
Lamar won several awards for his golf play, given out before the evening entertainment. Then a dance band played, and all had a good time.
Friday, September 30, 1994 - The sun was shining brightly, and the wind quieted. Still chilly. This was the first day of the Swiss Festival in Sugarcreek. A bus was scheduled every 15 minutes to and from camp to take us to town.
With all the attention the Amish people get in Holmes County, the fact that there is a large population of people of Swiss descent there is often overlooked. The Swiss Festival honors those people, and folks from all around come to Sugarcreek each year to participate in the celebration.
We took the first bus in, and while the girls did some shopping, Lamar and I walked about 6 blocks to the auction house. They were auctioning off all sorts of gear for horses and ranching. The sale of horses was scheduled for later in the day. From the auction we walked back to town in time for some lunch and to watch the childrens' parade. The little guys were cute walking down the street in their Swiss costumes. Some were barely old enough to walk. Others had pet cats, dogs, goats, and rabbits with them.
Saturday, October 1, 1994 - The weather looked good for travelling so we decided to skip the big parade and head south. It had been a good time, sharing the Amish experience with our friends.