Reed Travel Features

BIRD-IN-HAND, Pa. -- Visitors interested in learning more about Pennsylvania Dutch Country can do so through a multimedia attraction in Lancaster County.

The Amish Experience Theater is located in the Plain & Fancy village on Route 340.

The production combines the latest in special effects with the traditional story of the Amish people and their centuries-old culture.

The theater presents an original screenplay called "Jacob's Choice," which chronicles the saga of an Amish family from its flight from religious persecution in 16th century Europe to modern-day Lancaster County.

The main character is a teenager struggling between the old ways of his ancestors and the temptations of modern life.

The show features 3-D imagery, holographs and surround projection to bring the audience into the action.

Other special effects, such as roaring cannons and real smoke, add to the drama and fun.

The production is the brainchild of Bette Ranck, president of Amish Country Tours; Brad Igou, editor of Amish Country News, and Charles Romito, founder and owner of the Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire and Mount Hope Estate & Winery.

The partnership also is responsible for reopening the Amish Country Homestead, which is the replica of an Old Order Amish home in Plain & Fancy village.

"We really think there is an educational value to the show, and we hope that visitors will go out with a lot more understanding of the Amish people and their culture," said Ranck.

"People really seem to respond to the fact that the Amish were persecuted during the time of Martin Luther, and they also can relate to the immigrant experience."

The theater is expected to enhance the experience of the more than 5 million visitors who come to Lancaster County every year, she said, adding that thus far between 250,000 to 300,000 people have seen the show.

The Amish Experience Theater is open daily and seats 175 people.

Discount packages that include theater admission, a Homestead tour and a guided bus tour of the Amish countryside are available.

Ranck and her partners are working on a school curriculum that would work in tandem with the show, she said.

"There is nothing else like this being done in the area," she added.

Tickets are $6; tiered group rates also are available. Packages are commissionable to travel agents.

For more information on the Amish Experience, call (800) 441-3505 or (717) 768-8400, Ext. 20. For information about Pennsylvania Dutch Country, call the Pennsylvania Dutch Convention and Visitors Bureau at (717) 299-8901.

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