Wet roads don't keep seniors from Pa. sauerkraut dinner

January 01, 2008|By ASHLEY HARTMAN

WILLIAMSON, Pa. - Fellowship and the Pennsylvania Dutch tradition of eating pork and sauerkraut on New Year's Eve brought many senior citizens out on a slightly wet afternoon to Camp Joy El.

The little bit of snow on the side of the road did not keep about 200 people from coming to the meal.

"I grew up eating sauerkraut," said Aaron Ziebarth, executive director of Joy El Ministries. "Supposedly (eating pork and sauerkraut) either brings good luck or good fortune in the new year."

Camp Joy El, which is off Pa. 995 west of Greencastle, Pa., has been having the dinner, which began at noon Monday, for about 33 years, Ziebarth said.


"A lot of these people here - they tell me they want a place to eat sauerkraut on New Year's (Eve)," Ziebarth said. "I think it really meets a need for social interaction."

There was no charge for the dinner, but those in attendance were asked to make a reservation and bring a dessert to share.

"People of course usually bring the best dessert they can make," said Ziebarth. "A lot of people here wouldn't come if they couldn't give something back."

The line to the dessert table circled the entire dining hall.

While the event was geared toward senior citizens, Ziebarth said anyone could come, but since it's during the day, many people were working.

For Roy Butts of Shippensburg, Pa., the dinner is something he used to help cook with his wife, daughter and son-in-law.

"We used to make it - made sauerkraut here for 20 years," Butts said. He retired in 1981 and started making the sauerkraut in 1982.

"They would come up in September and make sauerkraut and store it in a big crocks in the basement here until the dinner," said Lois Ann Glessner, who has been working for Joy El Ministries since 1988.

"I don't regret any time I put in up here," Butts said.

He lost his wife three years ago and said things have not been the same since.

"We went (to the dinner) together and everything was done together," he said. "We had a good life together."

Floyd Olsen of Martinsburg, W.Va., said he has been coming to the dinner since he retired 24 years ago.

"When I retired, we were looking for a place to do volunteer work," Olsen said. "After I retired, I started coming up here doing maintenance (work)."

Olsen likes the dinner because of "tradition and seeing friends we've known for a good many years."

Roger Glessner of Mercersburg, Pa., brought his cousin, Pat Rebuck, of Shippensburg, Pa., his mother, Mary Glessner of Shippensburg, and his sister, Donna Chely of McDonough, Ga.

"(I like) the fellowship time, plus helping to serve the food," Glessner said.

Donna visits her family in Pennsylvania each year, but it was her first time coming to the dinner.

"I love pork and sauerkraut," she said. "It's a Pennsylvania Dutch meal and I enjoy it."

The Rev. Neville West of Waynesboro, Pa., a concert pianist and painter, provided entertainment after dinner and dessert. He created a speed painting of "Anne Hathaway's Cottage in England" to music.

West has done paintings depicting 9/11. One of his paintings currently hangs in the West Wing of the White House, Ziebarth said.

It's a tradition

Eating sauerkraut on New Year's is an old Pennsylvania Dutch tradition that is said to bring good luck, according to a story on The traditional meal consists of pork and sauerkraut served together, with the sauerkraut representing luck and the pig representing rooting into the New Year.

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