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black and white photo of Julius Sturgis, owner of the first pretzel bakery in America. April 26th is National Pretzel Day and Pennsylvania’s Americana Region is celebrating. After all, pretzel baking began not too far from our region and the industry grew significantly in Berks County. Today, we are home to several pretzel bakers, including famous Tom Sturgis Pretzels Inc..

Did you know this yummy snack had its start around 610 AD? Back then, it was a soft doughie treat given to children as a reward for learning their prayers. In fact, the twist represents arms crossed over a chest in prayer. Even the name pretzel, comes from the Latin word, pretiola,and means “little rewards” in Latin.

German, Austrian and Swiss settlers introduced the “little rewards” to America. In fact, The front of the Tom Sturgis Pretzel Factory with large pretzel in front. the first such bakery was established in 1861 in Lititz, PA by Julius Sturgis. It was there that Julius baked a crispy version of the treat. After Julius died, his descendants continued his baking tradition. In 1920, Marriott “Tom” Sturgis, a 3rd generation baker, moved the Sturgis baking family to Reading. Five generations later, the Sturgis family is still making delicious pretzels with their original recipe.

Because of our long history with this delicious snack, residents of Reading and Berks County enjoy pretzels in various ways. We love them salty, sweet, even bald. They’re delicious hot, cold, piped in mustard, dipped in ice cream and coated in chocolate. We indulge in hard pretzels – perfect with beer, as well as soft, hollow, and stuffed pretzels.

Woman and boy in front of a pretzel oven. Whether it is National Pretzel Day or not, when in Pennsylvania’s Americana Region, you simply have to partake in a crunch or two. You’ll find pretzels in grocery stores, farmers markets, roadside stands, and our bakers’ on-site stores. Try a variety of what’s available and tell us, how do you like to crunch?

On April 27th, join in the festivities of West Reading Craft Pretzel & Beer Fest from 11:00 am to 7:00 pm on Penn Avenue.