Bratwurst, funnel cakes, handmade crafts and authentic German bands – combined, these traditions have drawn thousands of people to downtown Hanover for three decades. Always held the last Saturday in July, the Dutch Festival is a standing Hanover tradition in itself.
The Festival was founded to promote community awareness and pride in the town’s strong Pennsylvania Dutch heritage. In its early days, Hanover was known as “McAllister’stown,” named after the innkeeper who laid it out, Richard McAllister. In the late 1700’s, immigrants from Rhineland and Palantine districts of Germany arrived en masse, drawn to the area because its geography resembled that of their homeland. As his town began to expand, McAllister renamed the place Hanover, after the German city so familiar to the new residents.
The German characteristics of hard work and expert craftsmanship shaped the economy of early Hanover, and when President Washington visited the town in 1791 he was impressed with the number of “good brick houses and mechanics.” Those characteristics are still here today, over 200 years after Washington’s visit. Hanover is home to an estimated 55,000 residents and is one of the largest retail districts and one of the largest manufacturing regions in Pennsylvania – a fitting tribute to the hard work and dedication of the Germans who settled here.