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One Tank Trip: Hex Barn Art Tour

By Karin Mallett, Anchor / Reporter, KMallett@wfmz.com
Published On: Aug 17 2011 09:52:57 AM CDT
Updated On: Jul 28 2010 06:54:22 AM CDT

Living in this part of Pennsylvania, you probably pass a few at least a couple times a week. But how often do you stop and look?

Barn stars and hex signs dot the landscape in our neck of the woods and one map will show you where to find them.

"You can easily see 100 different signs," said Steve Sharadin.

The Berks County Hex Barn Art Tour was developed 40 years ago by the Hex Tour Association, a group of business owners in northern Berks who were interested in drawing tourists to the region.

They settled on the signs as a way to bring people into town and, at the same time, realized the tour helped preserve the Pennsylvania Dutch motifs.

A map shows you around on a self-guided driving tour.

"Why they are put on barns primarily? There's a lot of debate about that," said Sharadin. "Some think they are there to ward away evil spirits, to promote good crops for the farmers but it's pretty much seems to be that there are there 'just for nice.'"

Our first stop is on Crystal Cave Road.

You can see the sign peeking through the trees.

It's like a scavenger hunt and we've found the first clue.

Some of those you can't miss and others you might have to hunt for a little bit.

You'll wind your way through northern Berks County and for some, you'll need a keen eye for signs like one off the road at the top of the barn.

If you're not paying attention, it's easy to drive right by.

"I would definitely give yourself at least half a day, at least half a day," said Sharadin.

That's good advice in case you run into bad weather.

We ran into a bit of rain on our travels and the good thing about the hex sign tour is there are some you can see from the comfort of your car.

While you're waiting out the summer storm, you can brush up on your Pennsylvania Dutch history.

The heaviest concentrations of barns adorned with the art are found along Old Route 22, the Hex Tour Highway.

But are they barn stars or hex signs? There is a difference.

Barn stars are symmetrical geometric shapes, the 10 point, 12 point stars.

On hex signs, you'll find love birds and distal finks, pictures and images linked to the culture.