Fairs and Festivals

20 Years of Raising Awareness in Randolph County with the Cultural Awarness and Enrichment Group.

For twenty years the members of the Cultural Awareness and Enrichment Group in Elkins, West Virginia have worked to educate Randolph County community members about diversity issues. The group continues to sponsor the Annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration and marked its 20th anniversary planning the event January 14th of 2018.

It was just after this anniversary that I sat down with the founding members of the group to talk about the celebration and the current state of our community’s cultural awareness. The members shared how the group was formed as a grassroots effort to support a multi-racial, multi-cultural, diverse community that is free of racism and bigotry. At the time of the formation of CAEG, surrounding counties harbored hate groups like “The National Alliance” that were putting on rallies and publishing hate documents. It was an unsettling time for the community and people were naturally drawn together to stand against the spread of hate propaganda. It was after a Martin Luther King Jr. celebration in 1998 organized by Ann Kingsolver and Catherine Fygan at the Davis and Elkins College that the group formed said Margo Belvin Denton.

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Pictured above: Jane Birdsong, Carrie Kline, Mary Alice Milnes, Margo Blevin Denton and Melvin Marks, Founding members of teh Cultural Awarness and Enrichment Group 2018. 

The group brought attention to local issues like acts of racism in the Elkins area and attention to the Riverside School Association, the group who worked to preserve the African American regional high school. They held meetings every two months and brought guest speakers to meetings like Paul Sheridan, Former Deputy Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division of the West Virginia Attorney General’s Office to talk about the “Not in Our Town” program, Jerry Dale spoke about the white supremacist group “The National Alliance”, and Karla Schantiger from Women’s Aide in Crisis spoke about domestic abuse.

In late 1999 the group heard that a local group of Ku Klux Klan members were planning a rally at the Harrison County Court house. The members of CAEG banded together to attend a counter rally the same day. The “Let’s Get Real Rally” countered the KKK members in downtown Clarksburg and in a peaceful yet strong way. The non-KKK protesters made it clear that the community was not going to stand by and watch the KKK be the only voice herd that day. The amount of community members who attended the “Let’s Get Real Rally” outnumbered the few Klan’s men at the Harrison County Court House. The counter rally was viewed a great success for groups like CAEG and the State’s program “Not in My Town”.  The energy from these events propelled the group forward for years and its annual Martin Luther King Jr. day celebration has remained a staple downtown Elkins event for the past twenty years.

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Community members inculding Elkins Mayor Van Broughton gather for the Commemorative MLK JR. March Jan. 2018. 

The goal of the CAEG has always been “to raise awareness” said co-leader of this year’s MLK day celebration Jane Birdsong. The group with help from community members, AmeriCorps service members and students from Davis and Elkins College, shared music, dance, poetry, prayers and a monolog written by Coretta Scott King about the legacy of her husband. The closing song of the celebration had everyone on their feet holding hands singing together about unity and love before a community pot luck began.

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Guests fill the sanctuary of the Woodford Memorial United Methodist Church during the MLK Day celebrations in Elkins 2018.

Also during the program a call to action was announced by Barbra Weaner. Emotionally Mrs. Weaner declared that with the current leadership in Washington, D.C. and acts of racism in Elkins that community needed to reinvigorate the Cultural Awareness and Enrichment Group once again. She said the issues of intolerance were just as relevant today as 20 years ago and we must not allow hate to reign again.

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Kyle Pajorito walks hand in hand with a unknown woman at the MLK Jr. Day celebrations 2018. 

After twenty years I was looking into the same faces that had stood up to racism, hatred and violence in Randolph County. The members have aged but continue to teach, share and love just like the first day they worked together. The goal of Cultural Awarness and Enrichment Group is still the same: “Make Elkins and Randolph County a climate for tolerance in a world of intolerance.”

 

 

Link for the KU KLUX Klan Clarksburg, WV rally:  http://americancityandcounty.com/features/government_one

Link for Paul Sheridan:    https://www.niot.org/category/niot/paul-sheridan

 

 

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Categories: Appalachina Mountains, community service, Elkins West Virginia, Fairs and Festivals, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Memorial, Non-violence, Randolph County, West Virginia | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Pick a Peck of Late Season Peppers

I hope all of your gardens have produced well this year. As I finally close up ours today ( the 4th of Nov.) It seems that I again have learned so much and have had so little time to write about it. We even won some unexpected prizes from the garden this year and that always makes a person feel good when the children are the winners.

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Grand Champion and First Place Winner Black Beauty Green Beans grown by Christopher Powers with help from his brother Cody Powers.

So I learned my first lesson of the season if you like what you grew last year and it did well don’t change seeds just for the sake of change. I have written about my testing seeds from the Seed Savers Exchange before and was really impressed with the green beans we grew and actually saved a few seeds to replant. I replanted the Black Beauty  green bean seeds again this spring and was overjoyed at the results but I was short a row of seeds and just picked up any old bush green beans at the store…. Big Mistake! By the time the local 4-H and county fairs were happening  I had 3/4 of a row of the most beautiful green beans next to a row of the most bug eaten, wilted and stringy beans you have ever seen. So Christopher and I picked the heirloom beans from The Seed Saver Exchange  and took them to the fair. Not expecting much, Christopher surprised us all when his green beans ended up Grand Champion over all the vegetable entries at the fair and First Place in horticulture this year.Lesson learned and I will be ordering more Black Beauty green bean seeds next year.

The Next lesson I learned this year is  that the Cabbage Moth is hard to stop if you don’t cover you crops soon enough. I lost every darn cabbage this year to the moths and I actually used row covers. I was lazy, I admit it, I just left those little sprouts uncovered for about a week and I got them from a feed store that had them outside before covering them. So what did I find about two weeks later when I was out looking over the plants…a  slimy mess all over my destroyed cabbage… and the Cabbage Worms loved my Brussel Sprouts also. So the rabbits got the remains of what was left in the row of cabbages this year! I will pass on cabbage next year, the corn we tried out preformed our expectations and I will be ready next year to freeze some.

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fresh garden garlic adds a deeper rich flavor.

The other lesson I learned was I love to grow garlic and found a wonderful spot under the roof eve of our house that is dry enough and warm enough for green onions, garlic and many herbs. So I am replanting lots more garlic this fall for the summer crop. I also amended this raised bed with a mixture of bunny droppings and wood shavings and everything went wild. One volunteer Water Mellon seed took root in the garden and I ended up with 5 water melons and a 8 foot long vine that covered everything but the garlic and my Sage. So next year I hope to have a huge herb garden for dry and fresh cooking with my garlic and onions.

The thing I have enjoyed the most this year is the second crop of peppers I just harvested and the second bloom of my Irises. I am not sure what happened to these plants but both seemed to be happy to deliver a double gift of their bounty this fall. So this morning when I heard the weather would bring freezing temperatures I covered the flowers and collected the peppers knowing that this is first sign that winter is here.

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the bloom of a yellow Iris on the 4th of Nov. 2016.

 

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Over flowing peck basket of small but usable green peppers Nov 4th 2016.

I am kind of sad to see the garden finally go. Tom and I have already cleared much of the dead stalks and plants from the garden so cleaning up will be easy.Mulching with more bunny droppings and wood shavings will happen and I will put the garden to sleep.

So do any of you have any great way to serve up small peppers? If you have any interesting ideas on how to use these up let me know if the comments below I am thinking of stuffing them like poppers… cheese, bread crumbs,garlic and baking them… what do you think?

 

Categories: Back yard garden, cheese, container garden, cooking, Fairs and Festivals, flowers, gardening, peppers, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

All things Strawberry, The Strawberry Festival 2016

So here in Buckhannon, West Virginia, every May we have a week-long festival dedicated to the Strawberry. At one time Strawberries in West Virginia were a large cash crop and it was great way to celebrate the spring. Now 75 years later…. there are less homegrown strawberries but the festival is larger than ever. This year Christopher was even part of three days of  the week-long festival events.

The spirit of the Strawberry Festival really found my family this year. Our excitement grew when Christopher became part of the Royal Court. He rode on the Strawberry Queen’s float with other 1st graders picked for this role from all the elementary schools in the county. He was also the King’s crown bearer for the coronation of the Queen. It was so much fun to see him in a tux being part of all the pageantry.

Christopher waiting backstage for the Coronation 75th Strawberry Queen 2016

Christopher waiting backstage for the Coronation 75th Strawberry Queen 2016

The week starts with the Coronation ceremony practice, with lots of photos and trips to the stage trying to get everything timed right before the afternoon Coronation event. Then there are 6 days of parades, live music events, strawberry food sales and outdoor activities like a 5k run and a canoe race down a local river.

The Strawberry Court waiting on the Queen to arrive

The Strawberry Court waiting on the Queen to arrive. Christopher is holding king’s crown 4th little boy to the left.

Strawberry Queen 2016

Strawberry Queen 2016

The following days are a blur,  4 parades, carnival rides, craft sales and lots of silly contest.

WVU's Mountaineer mascot takes time to walk in the parade

WVU’s Mountaineer Mascot takes time to walk in the parade

 

ROTC drill team passing Friendly Way during the Strawberry Festival

ROTC drill team passing Friendly Way during the Strawberry Festival

 

Christopher and friends riding the first of two floats for the Strawberry festival 2016

Christopher and friends riding the first of two floats for the Strawberry festival 2016

 

Mules pulling a mini pony express stagecoach

Mules pulling a mini pony express stagecoach

 

Sea of people at the Strawberry Festival Carnival 32016

Sea of people at the Strawberry Festival Carnival 2016

 

Chocolate drizzle funnel cake at the Strawberry Festival 2016

Chocolate drizzle funnel cake at the Strawberry Festival 2016

We ate lots of fair food, ice cream and strawberries over the course of the week and had a great time until my surgery interrupted the schedule of events. I was lucky to get to spend both nights watching Christopher pass by on his float ( Thursday and Saturday). I could only watch about an hour of the Grand Feature Parade,on Saturday before getting too tired from the surgery the day before.

As we headed home Thursday night ( the first of the parade nights). Tom and I both noticed that a 10 pm the carnival was still going strong and families walked the streets with stuffed toys and corn dogs on sticks. Friends stood in groups all along main street talking.Old men stood next to their classic cars in front of mains street restaurants talking while and wives eat ice cream in the front seat with the top down. Something seemed different  to me that night, it was like our childhood was happening all over again. It was the best feeling I have had in years. My  young son had somehow reminded me of what it was like to feel young again. We eat fair food and heard live music and walked back to the car long after dark under the street lamps. It was good to be part of the Strawberry Festival again!

Categories: Buckhannon West Virginia, carnival, Country life, Fairs and Festivals, family fun, Strawberry Festival, Upshur County West Virginia, West Virginia | Tags: , , , , , | 6 Comments

My Rock Through Sickness and Health

If life is a river as Robert Redford narrates in his movie ” The River Runs Through It”…. then my husband is the river boulder that we all fly fish from.

rocks covered in moss by the river in Ten Mile. WV

rocks covered in moss by the river in Ten Mile. WV

As my life takes another unexpected turn I am so glad he is always so strong and steadfast.He is unmovable in his faith that we will get through any issue large or small. As I face another surgery, this one scheduled for Friday the 21st,to remove a cyst and ovary that have been causing me pain. I am so thankful to have someone to take over all the chores and child care for me. If all goes well you will be seeing several blog posts next week while I recover and try to catch up with all the stories I have been wanting to tell.

I did some traveling to my AmeriCorps Stakeholders meeting and that is a two-fold story. The first is about the work AmeriCorps is doing in that small town and the Second is about mummies… I know when you think of West Virginia you always include mummies, why wouldn’t you.

I also have a story about the 75th year of the city of Buckhannon’s Strawberry Festival where little Christopher is part of the minor court and is the crown holder for the king. He is so excited to ride on the official float in the Grand Parade.The fair lasts a week and we will get to take part in a lot of the events.Cute kid photos are on the way and fair food photos will be in the post for my friend Dan at No Facilities.

I have also wanted to write about the house and the bee projects and  how this surgery is derailing both of them. I am not sure if the bee project will gain ground this year and the door should be ordered next month if nothing else goes wrong.We finally got a quote that we feel comfortable with and a door that we both like!

Christopher Power and Kaylee Hall leaving coronation of Strawberry Queen 2016

Christopher Powers and Kaylee Hall leaving the Strawberry Queens Coronation 2016

It has been a long year for the whole family, both Tom and I having surgery and Christopher needing to have a tooth removed have sidetracked just about everything I had planned for spring. The only thing that is going the way I planned is the garden. I hope get a chance to write about the newest addition “Garlic” soon. It is already doing well this year in an old flower bed that was amended with all natural Bunny Poop.

So now everyone is up to date and I have many more stories to write over the next couple of weeks. So if you get tired of hearing from me the next two weeks,forgive me.  I will be back to my one blog post a week as soon as I return to work and get on my feet again.

As always thanks for stopping in it is always fun to share my stories with all of you,

Mountain MaMa

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Categories: AmeriCorps, Beekeeping, Buckhannon West Virginia, Bunny, Christopher, DIY projects, Fairs and Festivals, Healing, Marriage, sickness, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , | 8 Comments

The Mountains Beckon to Young Cyclists

Mountains Beckon Parade & Rodeo winners for 2015

Mountains Beckon Parade & Rodeo winners for 2015

Spring time in West Virginia is the best time to explore the outdoor events. One of the most child and family friendly free events is Elkins’ Mountain Beckon Bicycle Parade & Rodeo. Over the past 5 years families in Randolph County have loaded up little bicycles and headed to downtown Elkins for a morning of riding bikes and winning ribbons.

The event being held the third Saturday in May helps the community celebrate Bicycle Safety Month. With the help of Joey Riddle and his Downtown cycling shop, Elkins Main Street, volunteers, and sponsors, children have the opportunity to learn about the joy of cycling. The event offers a rodeo where young riders can show of their skills riding through a traffic cone course. Enter contests for the best decorated bike and rider in several categories like Flower Power, Wild Camo, Super Hero, Sparkle&Shine, Color Crazy. Even the Mayor of Elkins, Van Broughton, joins in the fun by giving out the Mayors’ Choice Awards and ridding in the Davis Ave Parade.

Elkins West Virginia Mayor Van Broughton with Mayors Choice Award winner

Elkins West Virginia Mayor Van Broughton with Mayors Choice Award winner

Early Saturday morning children arrive for registration at 9 am at The City Building parking lot.With the city blocking off streets, Police and Fire Department giving escort for safety, the young riders fallow a short parade course through downtown.The children eagerly ride their decorated bikes along the parade route on Davis Ave from Fifth to Third Street, ending in Front of Joey’s Bike Shop. Bike safety classes begin with instruction on correct hand signals and how to properly fit a ridding helmet. Then families watch as their children test their ridding skills at the bike rodeo, winners  are announced and photos are taken. The morning wraps up with lots of happy kids and lots of smiling parents who see the value of encouraging youngsters to take part in healthy outdoor activities.

Mountain Beckons Parade starts on 5th street in Elkins West Virginia

Mountain Beckons Parade starts on 5th street in Elkins West Virginia

This years event is Saturday May 21st from 9 am-12 noon. Registration is at the City Building rear parking lot. The Parade progresses from fifth street to 3rd street and ends at Joey’s Bike Shop where the safety classes and rodeo begin. Awards will be given and photos with the Mayor will be taken and lots of fun will be had. Hope to see all of you there!

Teaching bicycle safety, Right Turn

Teaching bicycle safety, Right Turn

Categories: bicycling, childhood memories, Elkins Main Street, Elkins West Virginia, Fairs and Festivals, family fun | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

Lives of Service, The Gulf War and Americorps

Thomas Powers In Germany in Recovery Tank

Thomas Powers In Germany in Recovery Tank

While today ( Jan 17th) is the 25th anniversary of the Bombing of Baghdad and the official start of what was the Gulf War. My family’s service to America comes to mind. My husband served in the U.S. Army and Army Reserves for ten years from the age of 17 to 27 serving in the Gulf War until its end in March 1991. His role during the war was as a Military Policeman dealing mostly with POW.The years before the war Tom spent a tour in Baumholder, Germany where he worked as a recovery specialist with the 363rd mechanized division. He was a volunteer enlisted person all of these yearsI also recently have become a volunteer for our country although not with any military function. I have been officially joined AmeriCorps. A domestic federal volunteer program that serves local at risk communities. Much like the military you sign up for contracted amount of time and work for lower than average wages to serve communities that face economic struggles. Some of the problems that AmeriCorps works toward fixing include natural disaster recovery with FEMA, working to help homeless and aging veterans, educational issues in low-income areas, medical and dental issues in rural areas, and economic revitalization of depressed communities. Just like the rest of my family,a father who was a marine and a brother who is a retiring colonel from the U.S. Army and an MP husband, it was my turn to serve the people who I love and the communities I want to see prosper.

I became drawn to AmeriCorps for the same reasons my husband joined the military. If you asked either of us if we would help out a friend or neighbor who needed a hand, making their lives better with the work we are doing, we would jump to help. The other benefits are also a nice incentive.  The army has the E.I. education bill and Veterans benefits and AmeriCorps offers similar benefits. I am actually using my time with AmeriCorps to pay off the final portion of my college loans. They also offer money for college tuition and medical insurance. They both also offer travel with living expenses to new places ( domestic travel only with AmeriCorps). Mostly they aim to help the people of this country in some way and that is something that repays you in things more valuable than money.

I came to this place in my life because the events of the last year. It became clear after helping my husband’s family with the care of his dying mother that I finally felt the draw to serve. I had never given so much of my time to another person in my life other than my own kids. It was eye-opening to see how the healthcare world works and how without a family member or close friend things get missed and care can be inconsistent at best. So I knew after her death, I wanted to work in a field that made a difference for people. So I starting looking into the different ways I could make a difference and that lead to AmeriCorps. Essentially their work here in my state, fit right into what it is that I am trying to do with this blog. To uplift and rise above the problems that we face as community and state.

I will be working with the economic redevelopment of a nearby rural community, under a program called Elkins Main Street. I am so excited to share my skills with a very small non-profit that wants to try to build up an old downtown area. I have no idea where this will lead me but I am sure to learn allot and meet some interesting new people. I am also again surprised that this blog is one of the reasons I received a service offer. That my writing and creating this site had a huge influence on the people in charge. I will be working with them on a new website on WordPress. I will be promoting the work that they do on Facebook and trying to help share the activities we all are working on with my photography.

This new adventure will change my blogging some, I will be writing more on the weekends and evenings. So my posts will almost always be at night. It will also add to the fun that I have, as I work on fairs,festivals, work with historic buildings in Elkins West Virginia. It is a new adventure for me I aim to continue this blog to share what I am learning.

I find it a little ironic that it was this weekend that I joined AmeriCorps, as this is the same week that my husband 25 years ago faced the fact that a ground war was only days away. I guess everything happens in due time and it is just my time to serve. I think my husband is happy with my choice and he understands what it is like to serve. I am so excited about this opportunity and look forward to serving the people of West Virginia. Hopefully you all will be along with me as I see new things and help new people. Thanks to AmeriCorps I get to start a new direction in my life and make a little money along the way.

New River Gorge Bridge with fall folage 2000 by jolynn powers

New River Gorge Bridge with fall foliage 2000 by Jolynn Powers.

Categories: About me, AmeriCorps, Army, community service, Country life, Fairs and Festivals, Friendship, historic locations, West Virginia | Tags: , , , , , , | 6 Comments

A 1800’s Living History Christmas at Fort New Salem

A visit to Fort New Salem  is a trip back in time. The Living History Museum and Cultural Center in North Central West Virginia is a collection of over 18 historic cabins and buildings that are arranged as a pioneer settlement. The New Fort Salem Foundation of Salem West Virginia has public events all year to encourage the public to come and learn about what life was like in the 1800’s. It celebrates and educates about the traditions and folk-ways of the settlers of this area. The nationally recognized event ” The Spirit of Christmas in the Mountains” is the year-end gathering and a great place to spend the day with the kids for fun and learning.

The Village at Fort New Salem with woman in period clothing

The Village at Fort New Salem with woman in period clothing

I was lucky to have my whole family along on this afternoon trip to see  the Christmas in the mountain program. It rained most of the day we visited, making it feel a little cool and damp out side but the fires in each  tiny cabin warmed us. We started our visit with the two cabins that had candle making and a small kitchen that served hot chocolate, ginger bread men, pumpkin muffins and Wassel. The kids hand dipped candles for about 10 or fifteen minutes going from wax dipper to water and back again, over and over… The candle maker said to get a modern stick candle you would have to dip 50 coats of wax on a cotton wick to get one that size. Christopher dropped out fast only dipping about 15 times and Paige made it to about 25 dips before the repetition made her ready to find something more to do. The candle maker explained that most woman would make about 8 candles at a time instead of one at a time and a family would need about three candles a day to light their cabins at night. Making candles a very important necessity for settlers.

Paige dipping her candle in a bucket of cold water before adding another coat of wax at Fort New Salem, Salem West Virginia

Paige dipping her candle in a bucket of cold water before adding another coat of wax at Fort New Salem, Salem West Virginia

Christopher dipping candles at Fort New Salem, Salem West Virginia

Christopher dipping candles at Fort New Salem, Salem West Virginia

We then took the little ones to make their own ginger bread men and I got to have a cup of Wassail. (Wassail/Wassel  is an apple cider punch served warm and the above link has a traditional recipe that my family used).  I have not had the spicy cider in years, it tasted wonderful heated in a kettle in the fire-place. We all enjoyed the cookies and music playing while we ate. Christopher could not make up his mind if he wanted to keep the cookie or take it home, in the end it tasted really good and cooked perfectly to eat.

getting some decorating help at the kitchen at Fort New Salem

getting some decorating help at the kitchen at Fort New Salem

music played while we ate

music played while we ate

We then took the kids around to the blacksmith shop and tin shop where we all enjoyed watching things being made. The blacksmiths were making ornament holders and a fireplace set for the cabins. The Tin Smith at another cabin spent a lot of time with us explaining how tin things were made and used. The kids got to make tin ornaments for the tree as a gift from the foundation.

Blacksmith making a fireplace poker at Fort New Salem

Blacksmith making a fireplace poker at Fort New Salem

Tom helping Christopher and Paige make tin orniments

Tom helping Christopher and Paige make tin ornaments

We also went to the apothecary and honey houses. I bought some home-made Vick’s Vapor rub made with bee’s wax and lanolin and the kids got honey sticks to suck on. The day was almost over when we took a few minutes to  play with some traditional mountain musical instruments. We played with two different kinds of dulcimers and a cigar box banjo. The first instrument was a lap dulcimer that Christopher and Paige played along with using a home-made dance toys that made a rapping sound when it hit the wood plank. The other was my favorite instrument the hammer dulcimer. If a person is really good with the hammers they can play with 4 hammers at one time. This man was using two at a time, one in each hand.

Christopher playing in rhythm to a lap dulcimer

Christopher playing in rhythm to a lap dulcimer

Man playing a hammer Dulcimer at Fort New Salem

Man playing a hammer Dulcimer at Fort New Salem

In the same room with the dulcimers were a couple of banjos this one made from a cigar box  had  only 4 strings. Paige could not resist trying it out.

Paige playing the cigar box banjo

Paige playing the cigar box banjo

Even Tom was curious enough to see what the banjo sounded like and if he could play a few notes.

Tom playing a cigar box banjo at Fort New Salem

Tom playing a cigar box banjo at Fort New Salem

Then I took some time to talk with some of the volunteers who made the afternoon so exciting.The one I enjoyed talking to the most was Sarah who at the age of 70 came to play her bagpipes at the settlement. She had a remarkable story to tell me about her learning to play the pipes at 53 and that she had just recovered from a brain tumor  surgery 6 weeks earlier to come and play at this event. She love to play her pipes to remind everyone that many of the settlers of north central West Virginia were of Scotch-Irish decent and many of them were able to bring with them a form of the pipes called a chanter.

Music was  a large part of how the people of this area spend their time in the settlements and still is today.It makes the day so festive to hear so much music in the air. We even let the little ones buy whistles to make music with, which I later regretted on the hour car ride home!

Bagpiper at the Christmas Fair of Fort New Salem

Bagpiper at the Christmas Fair of Fort New Salem

The final event of the day is the annual tree lighting at the Fort. The Luminaries are lit and the candles on the tree begin their nightly glow and the sound of Christmas carols are heard ringing off the roof tops. The costumed volunteers walk and sing around the village shaking jingle bells and holding burning candles . It is a beautiful way to end a great afternoon of learning and shopping for crafts at the village store.

Christmas tree at Fort New Salem, Salem West Virginia

Christmas tree at Fort New Salem, Salem West Virginia

Tree lighting at Fort New Salem, Salem West Virginai... photo by Murphey

Tree lighting at Fort New Salem, Salem West Virginia … photo by Jaime Murphy Fort New Salem FB page

This is what we brought home with us on this trip to the Fort. These things remind me of all the work that the settlers put into everyday living and how lucky we are today. It was a hard, cold, life and it really is amazing the so many of them survived and went on to make better lives for all us Mountaineers. A visit to the Fort is well worth the 5$ for each adult visitor and they encourage you to bring your children under 12 by not charging any admission for them. My family learned and enjoyed a lot this day and I am sure we will be back during the next year. Now if I can just get time to make a kettle Wassail for myself before the holidays are over!

a collection of crafts and gifts from Fort New Salem

a collection of crafts and gifts from Fort New Salem

 

 

Categories: cabins, Christmas, Country life, education, Fairs and Festivals, Fort New Salem, history, Homestead, West Virginia | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Helvetia, a Swiss Village Hidden in the West Virginia Hills

A slow, tree-lined mountain road is the only way in or out of Helvetia,West Virginia. Where in the 1860’s a strong and talented group of Swiss and German settlers founded a new community within the isolated mountains of Randolph, County. To visit Helvetia today is to step back in time, to a place where culture and traditions remain very much the same as they were in the 1800’s. It is a place to sample the food, music and dancing that has been lost in the world of the internet and interstates. My love of this community and the ones that surround it started when Tom and I were first married and we would take day fishing trips to these mountains for some rest and relaxation. It was so refreshing to eat home cooked food and buy fresh honey in the country store that I just could not stop myself from wanting to spend time with the people here.

Main street of Helvetia Wv

Main street of Helvetia, WV

Helvetia is home to about 100 full-time residents and has one historic restaurant, a country store with a post office, a dance hall, community building, library and a church. Surrounded by farms, mountains and other tiny communities it is the center of all the events that residents and visitors enjoy. The annual “Helvetia Community Fair” is just one of several festive events that are held in this village year round. Most of people at these events are the descendants of the settlers and their families who work hard to keep these European traditions alive.

The Helvetia Community Fair includes a small  parade, crafters, live music, Alpine Horn Blowers, Swiss Dancers, Swiss Flag Throwers (Fahnenschwingen), a 10 k mountain run with a 2 mile walk, Archery Shoot and great food. The( Kultur Huas) a Post office/small store/ mask museum is open, the library has a book sale and the Honey Haus and Cheese Haus are open to visitors. The Hutte Haus Swiss Restaurant is open and serving the most wonderful Swiss/German food in the State. This is a festival for the whole family who want to know more about the Alpine life of the settlers and eat some of their wonderful food.

While visiting the fair we made sure the Christopher was able to see the parade as it traveled down main street.

 

Helvetia Children leading in the parade

Helvetia Children leading in the parade

Christopher getting candy from Mrs. West Virginia

Christopher getting candy from Mrs. West Virginia

Swiss family on float

Swiss family on float

Live blue grass music during Helvetia community parade

Live blue grass music during Helvetia community parade

After the 4 floats and a fire truck pass us we eat our afternoon meal at the Hutte Haus Swiss Restaurant on main street. It is a one of a kind restaurant voted one of the top 10 best restaurants in West Virginia. The house is over 150 years old and maintains both the interior  and exterior in historic style. The house has passed through a few hands but one ever wanted to lose the history or feel of the house even with it being a restaurant.

Hutte Haus Swiss Restraunt, Helvetia, WV

Hutte Haus Swiss Restaurant, Helvetia, WV

The house has many small rooms with tables and other furniture that are from many of the families in the community. Some are gifts as people updated, some sold to the current owners as families moved away and other pieces belonged to the first owners of the house.

Largest of the dinning rooms at the Hutte Haus restaurant

Largest of the dinning rooms at the Hutte Haus restaurant

Tom and Christopher Powers looking over wall decor at the Hutte Haus Swiss restraunt, Helvetia WV

Tom and Christopher Powers looking over wall decor at the Hutte Haus Swiss restaurant, Helvetia WV

 

Wood stove used to heat our dinning room at the Hutte House Swiss Restraunt

Wood stove used to heat our dinning room at the Hutte Haus Swiss Restaurant

Front dinning room at the Hutte Haus Swiss Restaurant, Helvetia, WV

Front dinning room at the Hutte Haus Swiss Restaurant, Helvetia, WV

Front Porch of the Hutte Swiss Restaurant , Helvetia, WV

Front Porch of the Hutte  Haus Swiss Restaurant , Helvetia, WV

The food is traditional Swiss German fair, with things like brats,  sauerkraut and Swiss cheese soup on the menu every day. Then during the festivals they serve the sample platter to everyone. This is includes hand-made sausage, white bratwurst, brazed chicken, potatoes, home-made sauerkraut and swiss cheese with home-made peach cobbler and fresh whipped cream for desert. It is a feast for the eyes and the stomach.I can can not say I have had a better meal any where that I have traveled or lived.

As our meal ended the rain started and  we walked the main street to the only intersection in town  and turned to see the community hall enveloped with people. The entertainment was thoughtfully moved in doors for the rest of the day and we found our benches and seats inside the wooden hall. In the hall we watched villagers perform the Alpine Horns, singers in costume sing traditional folk songs and young children perform Swiss/German dances that Tom and I remember from when we lived in Germany . The best, saved for last, was watching two young men swing the Switzerland flags to the Alpine Horns.

Young Swiss folk dancers

Young Swiss folk dancers

Swiss community singers

Swiss community singers

This is a short clip of what the Alpine horns sound like and what Flag Swinging is. I found them hypothetical when preformed together.

 

When the performances are over and the crowds slowly file back to the parked cars, Tom and I stop at the Kultur Haus / museum/ Post office. It is the place to get your souvenir tee shirts and post cards, honey candy and a cold pop, but I visit for a different reason. I come for the museum portion of the store. The museum is a loose collection of hand-made masks that  local village members hand make for the Fasnacht Celebration every spring. Some get donated to the shop and placed on display and show off the talent and strange and wonderful paper mache skills of the creators. Fasnacht is held around the first week of February and is the traditional celebration of the end of winter. It is much like a combination of Halloween and Mardi Gras and a Druid Ceremony rolled into one. The village people who attend, dress in home-made costumes, have a community dance with buffet dinner and live music. Then at around midnight the leaders of the community cut an effigy of old man winter down ( a straw stuffed scare crow with pine bows and a rubber mask face)  from the rafters of the dance hall carry him out in the nearby field and set him a blaze. The bonfire roars for an hour or two where the spirit of winter is free from the land. The night ends around 1 am with the start of spring. Some of the wonderful masks from these costumes are on display year round for everyone to enjoy it the Kultur Haus on Main Street.

Drunken Sailor and Zodiac Lincoln with Rams head masks Helvetia WV

Drunken Sailor and Zodiac Lincoln with Rams head masks Helvetia WV

Sun and China dog masks from Helvetia WV

Sun and China dog masks from Helvetia WV

Winter Frost Mask Helvetia West Virginia

Winter Frost Mask Helvetia West Virginia

 

more masks

more masks

Kultur Haus/Post Office/Museum

Kultur Haus/Post Office/Museum

Some of the other wonderful places we visited on the trip are the Honey Haus and Cheese Haus. They are not in operation any more but the structures are wonderful to look at and during this festivals are usually open for visitors. This year the Honey Haus had many hand-made honey products for sale and the Cheese Haus had samples of cheeses made and used in the area.

Honey Haus Helvetia, WV

Honey Haus Helvetia, WV

Cheese Haus Helvetia, WV

Cheese Haus Helvetia, WV

Street Sing Helvetia WV

Street Sing Helvetia WV

So with the rain trying to pour down again we headed to car with a 1/4 of a wheel of Swiss cheese, full hearts and tummies. The day seemed short although we had spent 6 hours at the fair. I was glad to get in the warm and dry of my car, but I didn’t want to leave.I  loved my time here and could have just stayed and worked in the warmth of the kitchen at the Hutte Haus or collected the mail in the Museum…I guess I will just have to come back as often as I can so that I will understand even more about why after 155 years people never really leave this place but always come back.

Swiss family crests flying over main street in the rain

Swiss family crests flying over main street in the rain

 

Categories: Appalachian Mountains, Fairs and Festivals, family fun, Halloween, Helvetia West Virginia, history, rural life, Swiss culture, Upshure County | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

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