Made In America
I’ve lived in York’s neighboring county of Lancaster for the past few years, but I never really ventured to the other side of the Susquehanna River. I recently had the opportunity to visit York county for a preview of their upcoming Made in America event. This four-day celebration from June 12-15 will allow visitors from all over to get a behind-the-scenes look at 42 businesses that exhibit the core maker values that York boasts. From artisans like Mark at Bluett Bros Violins to manufacturers like Martin’s Snacks, makers both big and small will open their doors for tours, demonstrations, and hands on experiences. Visitors can experience everything from soap making to playing with alpacas to observing the production of circuit boards.
Downtown York in Springtime
The 42 locations are scattered throughout York County, some even stretching into Lancaster and Dauphin Counties. The Strasburg Rail Road is the farthest location to the east, while Revonah Pretzels in Hanover stretches the farthest to the west. To the north, West Hanover Winery in Hershey and to the south, Oakworks in Shrewsberry mark the outskirts of the participating locations.
My preview tour started off at Caputo Brothers Creamery, which by the name, sounds like an ice cream shop, but is actually a cheese making facility and restaurant. The owners David and Rynn Caputo studied the culinary arts in Italy and then opened Caputo Brothers after returning to the states and not being able to find quality cheese. They picked their Spring Grove location because of its proximity to Apple Valley Creamery, which produces the milk they use in cheese making. Participants who come to Caputo Brothers can experience a cheese tasting and a tour of the facility. I was a little wary of having to eat cheese at 9 a.m., but it was well worth it. I received a board with seven of their fresh cheeses including a soft mozzarella, ricotta, provola, provola picante, smoked mozzarella, provole riserva, and their famous Vecchio, which is aged for 6 weeks allowing for a funky rind to develop on the outside. A small dish of pepper jelly was also placed in the center of the board, which was a delicious pairing for each cheese.
On the tour, participants will get to see Caputo’s cheese cave while learning about the science of cheese making and the history of the business. After the cheese cave, the tour meanders to where the magic happens, the cheese making floor. Visitors can watch the cheesemakers tend to the large vats that host the process, while a tour guide explains how it works.
Our next stop was to Martin’s Snacks, home to the famous Martin’s Kettle Cooked Potato Chips. I was intrigued by how much recycling the facility does. Their potato peels go to a local farmer that uses the waste as pig feed. They also recycle mud that is spun and cleaned off the potatoes and given to the same farmer who uses this on his farm. The water that is used to wash off the potatoes is recycled and irrigated to a field behind the facility that they own and rent out to a farmer. Visitors go behind-the-scenes to watch the entire potato-to-chip process and even get to taste some chips fresh out of the fryer.
Electronic Manufacturing Services Group was our next destination. Visitors to this location will get a 15 to 30-minute tour of the intricate creation of circuit boards. Their circuit boards are used in car washes, Rutters’ card readers, controls for parking lights, and dental equipment to name a few. A circuit board created here can cost anywhere from $5 to $10,000. If you are like me and have no idea how this technology works, this tour is a great learning opportunity. Our tour guide, Alex, explained everything to us in simple terms so we could understand.
Sunrise Soap Company caught my eye from down the block. A huge cloud of bubbles from their bubble blower greeted us as we arrived at the shop. Immediately, I loved the ambiance of the shop; there were bathtubs filled with bath bombs, an eclectic mix of posters and decorations, and so many vibrant colors of soaps. Visitors during Made in America will be able to make their own soaps, lotions, or fizzies and view a short demonstration of how they mix, pour and cut their soap. The soap making process is easy, customizable and fun. Chrissy, the owner, has a huge collection of soap molds, with shapes like the Grateful Dead bears, owls and even a bin entirely dedicated to Star Wars. I chose to make a Volkswagen bus and a lotus flower.
After we made our lovely soap creations, the Sunrise ladies showed us how they mix, pour and texture a batch of cinnamon soap. They also put us to work; I cut a solidified batch of lemongrass soap with their estimated 125-year-old soap cutter, then stacked the bars to be put on a drying rack. The enthusiastic staff and laid-back vibes of the shop made the experience one to remember.
Mark Bluett from Bluett Bros Violins is a true master of his trade. In his workshop, he builds string instruments by hand, mostly in the violin family. He has been crafting instruments for the past 36 years since he finished an apprenticeship in D.C. Mark even offers his own apprenticeship program and we got to meet his current trainee. Not only is Mark a maker, but he is also a restorer. The oldest violin he worked on was created in 1545. He taught us about the dynamics of a violin and how the sound is produced and amplified, which made me realize how intricate the design and creation must be. When Mark builds his instruments, he gets so into the flow that he isn’t even sure how long it takes for him to create one instrument. On the rare occasion that a mistake is made on a violin, he used to have a wall of shame to hang the mistakes on, but now he just throws them in his chiminea.
Alpacas of York was one of my favorite parts of the tour. I wasn’t sure what to expect going into the farm, having often confused alpacas with llamas, their less friendly, spitting relatives. Thankfully, I was mistaken; the alpacas were so friendly and soft to pet. The farm houses 32 alpacas, each with their own name that owner Sheri Hunt Smith somehow remembers. Three of the female alpacas are pregnant and the crias, the name for baby alpacas, will be delivered soon. Visitors may even be able to meet a cria or two during Made in America. The male alpacas were outgoing and immediately approached us to curiously sniff us out. One alpaca who loves peppermint would not leave a fellow tour goer’s side because she had a mint in her purse. The Made in America event will be within the shearing season, so visitors will be able to see how the fleece transitions from fur on the alpaca into yarn. The farm is also home to chickens, two adorable rescue cats, and a gift shop with socks, sweaters, dryer balls and other products created from the alpaca yarn.
Flinchbaugh’s Orchard and Farm Market proudly exhibit York’s grower and family values. Julie, a family employee, led us up into the orchards with her son in tow. Flinchbaugh’s is run by Julie and about 10 other family employees. It is evident how involved and passionate she is by her enthusiasm while explaining how Flinchbaugh’s Orchard works. The fruit trees are separated by age and they cycle through trees depending on how old they are. Apple trees are usually kept for 20 to 25 years before being uprooted and replaced with baby trees. Julie explained that they are constantly planning for harvests years in advance. Made in America will be around the same time as the first peach harvest, so visitors will be able to walk through the fields and see trees plump with peaches ready to be picked. After the tour of the fields, visitors will be able to sample some fresh apples grown on the farm.
After Flinchbaugh’s, we traveled to Red Lion to experience Candi J Duda Stained Glass & Garden Art. When we arrived, Candi was at her workstation, creating a batch of stained-glass wrens. She first traces the glass from a picture or template, then scores and cuts the glass. To ensure they will fit together smoothly, she sands and covers the edges with copper tape. Lastly, to make the pieces stick together, she solders the edges. Candi started creating stained glass art in 2002 after attending a class where she fell in love with the craft. In addition to her work, she also sells items from outside vendors and antiques. She offers various art classes in the store, a four-hour long class specifically for stained glass making. Visitors during Made in America will be able to see the artist at work and shop her various wares.
Right across the street from Candi’s shop is Guitar Spot USA, a one-stop shop for guitars, lessons, repairs and other equipment. The walls are covered in guitars, each with their own unique personality. About 300 instruments are hung inside the store, ranging from electric guitars to banjos. Guitar Spot offers lessons for various instruments and their students range from age 8 to 80. In the back of the store is a room dedicated to student recitals, but they hope to have open mic nights in the space soon. During Made in America, visitors can expect to meet Guitar Spot’s mascot, Ollie, a big black Bouvier who lounges about the store. Chad, the owner of Ollie and Guitar Spot itself, will also hold demonstrations and explanations for visitors.
The last stop on our preview tour was Perrydell Farm Dairy, a family farm that was bought in 1923 and is now in its third generation of ownership. Perrydell will be the kickoff location for Made in America. Visitors will be able to explore the farm at their own pace and get to see the entire process of how Perrydell raises their cows, bottles milk, and eventually makes it into ice cream. It all starts out back where visitors can pet the adorable calves in their little hutches. After about three months the calves are moved with the rest of the heifers, which are cows who haven’t had their first calf yet. After the calves turn about 18 months old, they are bred for the first time and moved into the big barn with the dairy cows. Down in the big barn, the dairy cows relax or visit the big rotating brush which gives them a nice back scratch. The next stop on the tour is to a small room where visitors can peek out onto the milking floor. The dairy cows are milked twice a day at 3:30 and 6:30 p.m. Each cow produces about 8 gallons of milk per day. The milk is then transferred into a refrigerated tank and later piped to the bottling plant. Back inside the general store, the door to their bottling plant is open so visitors can get a chance to see that process. Above their ice cream counter, a video explains how they create their delicious ice cream. The “cow patty” flavor seems to be especially popular. Contrary to the implication of the name, the flavor is a delicious chocolate mint flavor.
Made in America participants can request a passport or download and print a copy prior to the start of the event. As you visit various locations included in the tour, be sure to get a stamp or signature. If you visit five or more locations, you can enter into a raffle for various prizes. Be sure to check out hours of operation and other details for each site you plan to visit. Some locations are only open specific days during the tour, such as Martin’s Snacks who will only be open for tours on the Wednesday of the four-day event.
York’s Made in America celebrates and showcases the abundance of talent housed right in York County, a lot of which we often overlook or don’t realize. The Made in America tours present special opportunities to meet and appreciate the artisans, creators and growers that make Pennsylvania such an exceptional place.
Click to learn more about the Made in America event.
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