Holmes County, Ohio (WTRF) Every year, millions of tourists yearn to step out of the fast lane and experience a rich culture from an earlier time.
Forty-four percent of the residents of Holmes County don’t speak English; they speak Pennsylvania Dutch.
But they welcome tourists from all over the world, offering an eclectic array of things to see, do and taste.
Millersburg is a quiet little town with a Victorian hotel and shops selling everything from frocks to antiques.
At the Amish and Mennonite Heritage Center, they have the world’s longest mural.
It took the artist 14 years, and he ended it with a selfie—an image of himself, a gray-haired man with paintbrushes in his pocket.
They explain that the Amish don’t wear buttons on their clothing, don’t get their power from the grid and don’t own cars.
“They say if we own cars, Mom would go one way, Dad would go the other and the kids would go another way,” said Marcus Yoder, the center’s executive director. “And we prefer to be home.”
He noted that tourists are allowed to take their pictures.
“Treat the Amish like you would treat your own family,” Yoder said. “No one likes it when somebody comes right up in their face and takes their picture. So be respectful and just keep a little bit of a distance and they’ll be fine.”
Their surroundings are picturesque.
Their cheese is legendary.
At the Cheese Chalet, they make about 21,000 pounds of cheese a week, all of it a hot commodity.
And some if it, just plain hot.
“We have some very hot varieties,” said Esther Schlabach, retail manager. “Our hottest variety is the Carolina Reaper, which I haven’t tried yet. And then we have the Scorpion and the Ghost Pepper.”
She says Ghost Pepper is the least hot.
Moving on to Hershberger’s Farm and Bakery, there’s a product market, a farm store and a petting zoo.
You can meet a shockingly tall horse, or ride some medium-size horses.
You can pet some adorable piglets, or feed a tiny goat.
The animals all enjoy being hand-fed with treats that you can buy.
And you can take a horse-drawn buggy ride.
At Sheiyah Market, (that means ‘barn’ in Dutch), they started 22 years ago on one floor of a barn, and grew into a big business.
“We have fabulous home goods that we can decorate your home, we have clothing to dress you and then we have the garden center with wonderful plants,” said Naomi Gingerich, Sheiyah Boutique manager.
In nearby Sugar Creek, there’s the world’s largest cuckoo clock; it’s in the Guinness Book.
Down the road, the popular Ohio Star Theater seats 500.
There’s the Breitenbach Winery, where you can have a barrel of fun sampling more than 40 award-winning wines, pairing them with wood-fired pizza.
For overnight or vacation stays, The Carlisle Inn offers all the amenities.
There’s a library where you can read, relax or play checkers, luxury suites with a hot tub, a breakfast room and an indoor pool.
If this doesn’t seem Amish, it’s OK.
They all co-exist.
“Quilts and buggies may get you here, but there’s so much more to explore,” said Shannon Carter of the Holmes County Chamber of Commerce. “We have endless lodging options, we have attractions, we have farms, we have world class shopping, we have fine art galleries, breweries, theaters and more.”
“In an average year, we’ll see about four and a half million people visiting this community, and we like every one of them!” said Yoder.
While the Amish don’t use power from the electric grid, they do have electricity.
They use solar power and generators.
And the question they are most often asked is, “Where’s the cuckoo clock?”
They say it cuckoos at the top of every hour, except in winter, when it is disconnected.
They say tourists come from 110 different countries.