What’s the most asked question at the West End Fair?
“When will you be baking bread?”
I don’t know if this is the most asked question, but Norman Burger sure hears it enough.
Burger, the president of the Polk Township Historical Society, says he’s hoping the bake oven at the West End Fairgrounds will be operational next year.
Volunteers from the society rescued the oven, built around 1790, from the Jonas Hotel oven and moved to a building at the fairgrounds.
But it still needs a lot of work.
Burger said the oven and its chimneys were damaged in the hotel fire in 2005.
The Jonas Hotel was a stop along the stagecoach route from the Wyoming Valley to the Lehigh Valley. The oven is big enough to churn out several loaves of bread for the day.
Historically, to break bread a fire is built inside the oven. Then the baker waits a couple of hours for the temperature to build to 400 to 450 degrees. “To test it, they’d stick their arm in and if your hair stands straight it’s ready,” Burger said.
Then they rake the coals out and put the baked goods in.
The building where the oven is housed is next to the fair museum. Burger said a window has been built where bread will be served to fairgoers.
Burger hopes to one day make stew in cast iron kettles donated by area residents.
The historical society needs $20,000 to get the oven in working order.
If you’re going to the fair, you shouldn’t miss a chance to see this awesome piece of history. You’ll be surprised at its height and depth. And its beauty.
And while you’re there, take a chance on a raffle ticket to help out this cause. The society is selling tickets for $2 a piece or three for $5. There are 37 prizes including meats, cash and gift certificates. Tickets are available at the oven building.
We need to preserve our history and this is one small way we can help.
And if you’re really into history, take a few minutes to go through the museum next door. You’ll be glad you did.