The movie Witness introduced the Amish and Lancaster County to the wider world in 1985. The film was a hit, and the world came to visit.
Tourists from as far as Australia visited the Krantz Farm in Strasburg, where a tough Philly detective, played by Harrison Ford, went to hide out from crooked cops during a murder investigation, and fell in love with an Amish woman, played by Kelly McGillis. The Krantz family, who were Mennonites, were besieged by offers to sell the home, to turn the 82-acre farm into a tourist trap, in the years right after the Oscar-winning film was released. From time to time, some curiosity seekers showed up or sneaked around, and public access was tightened.
On Saturday, Phil Lapp, who as a child spent days on the film set, where his father was an extra, will lead a “Witness Experience” for 100 people, starting with a screening of the film at Zoetropolis, a theater in downtown Lancaster, followed by a quiz, and a tour and sit-down meal at the farm. There will also be an auction of crafts and items from the film.
“Something like this might happen once a year,” said Lapp, 41, founder of loKal Experiences.
Lapp, who also is Mennonite, said he entered the burgeoning “experience tourism” world in 2017 after a conversation with Norwegian tourists at a Turkey Hill convenience store in Lampeter. They were heading to an Amish “tourist trap,” he said, so he offered to guide them to something more authentic instead.
“Three months later, we went to Norway and did the same with them,” Lapp said.
Tickets to the event, which begins at 10 a.m., cost $75, and a photo package is available for an additional $99. They can be purchased here.
Witness was one of the top-grossing films of 1985 and was nominated for eight Academy Awards. It holds a 92 percent favorable critics’ rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Locally, however, the film stirred controversy. John Hostetler, a Temple University professor, said Witness was an “intrusion into the Amish way of life,” according to a 1984 Lancaster New Era story. Director Peter Weir accused Hostetler of being a hypocrite who sold books about the Amish in “tourist shops.”
Since then, the farm has changed hands. Its current owners, Lapp said, are being compensated for Saturday’s event.