The First Annual Reading Pretzel Fest drew a large crowd to First Energy Stadium this Saturday. The pretzel was first created by the German settlers of our state, known as the Pennsylvania Dutch. To celebrate this heritage, dozens of local pretzel makers gathered at the stadium, along with local restaurants and breweries from across the country.
While live music filled the middle of the event, patrons flocked around the edges from stand to stand, tasting the pretzels and pretzel-inspired dishes. Kids played on an inflatable slide, and craft vendors showed off their most locally-inspired work, including Pagoda necklaces and pretzel earrings. Two of our favorite dishes came from a couple of West Reading restaurants. Say Cheese! handed out samples of pretzel ice cream sandwiches, filled with ice cream that was homemade with Yuengling porter. Further down the line, Brewer’s Bar and Grill served up brisket sandwiches on pretzel rolls with cheese and an onion ring on top. As for the pretzels themselves, Bell Alley’s legendary pretzels were for sale at the ticket booth, and Joey’s Snack Shack from the Shillington Farmer’s Market made quite an impression with their soft pretzel flavors, including pumpkin spice and Victory Storm King stout.
Speaking of beer, Reading also has a very rich history of brewing. Though the city is strangely without a brewery at the moment, the first president of the United States Brewers Association lived here in the late 19th century, and the city has been home to dozens of other brewers throughout the years. Thus, a beer tasting was deemed a fitting perk to the pretzel festival. Over 15 breweries were included in the tasting, which was done up on the pool deck of the stadium. Unfortunately, the beers were poured by event staff instead of brewery representatives, so no one was able to tell me much of anything about what I tasted. Hopefully as the event grows, the breweries will think it’s worth sending a person here like they do most other beer tastings.
All in all, the event was a success, and it ran surprisingly smoothly for being the first time. It was a fun afternoon out in the city and a creative way to celebrate Reading’s unique history. We look forward to returning next year. And on a more personal note, I look forward to seeing what kind of festival people in the future create to celebrate the history we are making in Reading today.