Posts Tagged With: Randolph county West Virginia

The Joy of CreatingCommunity Art

When I graduated from college with a degree in art, I never thought that I would be a public art advocate or a muralist. Of course, I never thought I would be on TV or an AmeriCorps Service Member either. Today working on community art projects is one of the things that gives me the most joy.

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AmeriCorps Volunteer murals start to appear in the windows of the Golden Rule Building, Belington, WV

Art has always been a passion of mine but taking my skills to the size and scale of murals to be displayed in public spaces is new. I have always used art as a tool for my personal  expression, never thinking about doing art for the public. Now as a mature artist, I am sharing the feelings and passions of communities, programs, and groups of people. The change is fundamentally new to my understanding of what it means to create and to be a creator. I see my work now as a tool for positive change in a community. A gift that will have lasting effects in many of the small rural towns where I live and work.

 

Over the last month, two more quilt panels that I was the project manager for and head artist have been installed, 6 window murals have been installed that I helped to create with volunteers, and the beginnings of an office mural, that I am personally painting, is ready for paint application. I am also on the board of an Art organization called Mountain Arts District that is in the process of installing a collection of student art work  in a city park in June. It is over whelming when I stop and look at the amount of people and projects that have passed through my life in the last 3 years.  Yet, this is not my main job and I only do what I can for non-profits who rarely have the funds to pay for such projects. I am doing most of this work as a part of my AmeriCorps service but also as an educational experience to those around me. Public art is a niche skill just like any other field and the leaders of our communities rarely understand or feel comfortable talking with arts, I aim to change that.

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line drawing on the wall of my new office Barbour County Development Authority, Philippi, WV

 

I often paint with non-artist volunteers and spend much of my time helping and teaching interested community members skills that they can use to make community art themselves. It is a joy to share in the process of watching an idea come to life, then see people learning to make art, then watch the pride that comes to their faces when they walk through a downtown seeing art that they have helped to make. It is sometimes the only real change that they can point to and say “I did that” in their community.

Community art is best when people who live and love a place take part in the creation of their culture. That could mean painting murals,  taking part in community dances, attending festivals of live music or creation of community gardens. It is when people begin to see that they have the power to create positive change that things begin to thrive.

Even if I never planned to be doing this kind of work and I am surprised everyday that I get paid to create these images, I am thankful to AmeriCorps for allowing me to share my skills.I am fortunate to work at sites that have allowed me the time away from the “office” to work on these up lifting projects and I will have the best memories of my service time.  It is my final wish that as I leave AmeriCorps next spring that I can continue to make a difference in my community with art in some way. I know that it has changed me for the better and I hope it is always part of who I am.

instillation of Quilt block at YMCA 2017

installation of one of the 8 panels I helped to create for the Elkins Main Street project 2017

 

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Categories: About me, AmeriCorps, Art, Barbour County, Community Art, Elkins Main Street, murals, Painting, Quilt Trails | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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

 

 

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

Saying Goodbye to Elkins West Virginia

I have left jobs, lost jobs, ran from jobs and wanted different jobs, but I am not sure I am happy about leaving this job. I am leaving my AmeriCorps position in Elkins West Virginia to move on to my final year as an AmeriCorps to a smaller town called Phillipi, West Virginia. After two years serving in the community of Elkins, I would have thought this move would be easier. It’s not easy…… and I am not accustom to leaving work that I enjoy and feel passionate about. AmeriCorps has been wonderful to me and I have learned to love my community and state even more because of the work I do.

Henry Gassaway Davis mounted in Elkins West Virginia

Street View Elkins Sky line

It is the people that I hate to leave… they have opened their homes and hearts to me and I spent two years learning in the shadow of giants. Most of them are under dogs, scrappy  hard fighters who have never had a easy time of livinging in the mountains of Appalachia. Most work long hours often on bugets that outsiders would never be able to open a door with. They make due, they know how to stretch a dollar and work past dark for little pay. It is not easy to carve out a new future from the dark wooded mountains of West Virginia’s past, but they move forward. The community of Elkins is a strong, proud group of people who love as hard as they work.

I will say goodbye the 8th of Feb and take a much need rest before I move on to a smaller more remote community. I am excited and hopeful that I can help another community bring to life their dreams for a brighter future. I can only hope that this move will be just as  rewarding as my years in this mountain town.

So as my far well approaches I thought I would share some of my favorite photos of

Elkins and the people who made my term so wonderful.

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Art of Elkins Wine Tasting Tammy Dolly and Jolynn Powers

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Driver of the Raminator at the Mountain State Forest Festival

Doug Starcher and Jolynn Powers at Selfie Sation

Categories: AmeriCorps, Appalachin Forrest Heritage Area, Elkins Main Street, Elkins West Virginia, historic locations, Monongahela National Forest, photo review | Tags: , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Canaan Valley Wild Life Refuge: Hiking The Wetlands of The Refuge.

This past fall Tom and I were encouraged by some work friends to explore one of the hidden gems of West Virginia. The Canaan Valley National Wild Life Refuge in Davis, West Virginia. An unusual place, high in the Allegheny Mountains, a wetland on top of  the mountain, where you feel as if you have entered a cranberry bog in Main. Tom at the edge of run off pond Canaan Valley Wild Life Refuge 17 .jpg

We were not prepared for the difference in environment that the refuge supplies. We planned our hike for a day that was predicted to be the peak fall color in the hardwoods.   We thought we would be hiking in the shade of those trees. We did not bring water or plan for lots of mud. Instead, in the wetland we spent time with thorn trees that provide no shade.We found our trails blocked by wet weather springs and beaver dams. We hiked past rock outcrops and over wild blue berry bushes. We found sandy beaches and twisted evergreens, but not the leaf covered floors of my back yard woods. We spent our day a little bewildered, visiting parts of the valley that felt as if I was no longer in West Virginia at all. It was a splendid surprise and I am so glad we were able to spend our day here.

Toms family for years had a time-share condo in Canaan Valley Ski Resort area. They used it in the off-season during the summer to rest, swim, play tennis, sight-seeing and shop. They never spent time hiking or learning about the unspoiled portion of the valley. Tom was so surprised by what he saw that he now has plans to explore the rest of the refuges 16,550 acres.

Tracking an enormous black
bear one morning in the mid1700s,
George Casey Harness
came to a spot, “on the western
slope of the Alleghenies which
overlooked a wide, well-watered,
wooded and grassy valley. The
breathtaking beauty of the wild
valley so impressed young
Harness that he involuntarily
cried out, ‘Behold! The Land
of Canaan!’” *This story is but
one of the ways that the valley
may have gotten its name.

Within the refuge there are about a dozen trails, all well-marked and made on relatively flat ground (easy to moderate ratings). We spent most of our time either hiking the bowl edge of the valley, while getting wonderful views of the ring of mountains that surround us, or in the bottom land walking through water. The Camp 70 Trail is the best view of the wetlands and is the location of the beaver dams. It is only 3 miles from downtown Davis, West Virginia. It was a photographers dream…. so many colors,textures and reflections to see and capture on the 2.4 mile hike into the park.

When we arrived we drove through the typical West Virginia hardwood forest into a new world that we had never experienced before.

Hwy 7 between Canaan Valley Resort and Davis West Virginia.

Hwy 7 between Canaan Valley Ski Resort and Davis, West Virginia

The park spreads across the highway and covers areas that are very flat to areas that are mountainous with rocky ledges with heath bogs. The  Canaan Valley National Wild Life Refuge boarders the Dolly Sods Wilderness area with another 17,700 acres of wilderness and the Monongahela National Forest with 919,000 acers.All three are worth the trip even if you can only stay long enough to walk a mile to see the splendor of the area.

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Trail to large beaver pond. In the back ground is Dolly Sods wilderness and the Monongahela National Forest.

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Rock choppings appear along the trails everywhere In the Canaan Valley National Wild Life Refuge.

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twisted horn tree in the wet land of Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge

Over the course of a day we did two trails with about 6.5 miles total. We then left the refuge and headed towards Dolly Sods to see the heath bogs and a more rocky terrain. Some where between the two we ended up on a forest service road deep in the Monongahela National Forest and never arrived at Dolly Sods. We followed the forest service road for about 15 miles and ended up seeing some wonderful mountain views that lead us to Seneca Rocks State Park.   We drove through some of the most beautiful places in West Virgina, and never planned it.  The trip home took longer then expected but the day in the wilderness was well worth getting lost and finding our way back home again.

If you plan to visit the Canaan Valley National Wild Life Refuge keep in mind that many acres of the refuge are not on trail maps and the surrounding acreage are mostly National Forest or State Parks with huge land holdings you will not be able to tell when you have left one place and entered another if you are not on a marked trail. Combined these three land holdings have over 930,700.00 acres of wilderness. Each park, refuge and forest have different rules about their trails and land uses. Also keep in mind that camping is not allowed on the refuge but is in some areas of the State Park and National Forest. Get Maps… if you plan to do any cross over hiking, or off trail exploring. It is rare to hear of someone getting lost in the wetlands or forests but it can happen. Be prepared for Bear! This is bear country, while we hiked that morning (during early bear season) we met a large group of bear hunters who had gotten a bear only 3 miles from where we hiked. The group traveled with a large pack of hunting dogs, 5 or 6 of the sweetest dogs you ever wanted to meet. But, if you are not a hound lover it can be overwhelming to see 3 or 4 running at you down a trail. The men were friendly and we talked with them for several minutes about the success of their hunt and that it was the senior member of the group who at 76years old had taken the bear after hiking 8 miles to find it and another 6 to get back to a truck parked near by. All of this hunting had finished before 11am that morning. This is West Virginia and hunting is legally allowed in all of these locations with limits to non-populated areas. Become part of the “Leave No Trace” program and take back what you bring into our parks, forest and refuges leaving no trace.Making sure that everyone can enjoy all that is Wild, and Wonderful about West Virginia.

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Beaver pond with reflections, Canaan Valley National Wild Life Refuge.

 

Categories: Appalachian Mountains, Canaan Valley Wild Life Refuge, Cannan Valley Ski Resort, family fun, hiking, Monongahela National Forest, Randolph County, West Virginia | Tags: , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Art and History Spark Interest in Downtown Elkins W.Va.

Quilts have always kept us warm, reminded us of our past, and brought families and friends together. These same ideals are used to create the Elkins Main Street’s Heritage Quilt Trail. A community supported effort to bring art, history and warmth to downtown Elkins. With guidance from Elkins Main Street and their Promotion Committee, small groups of community volunteers, such as Emma Scott Garden Club, Davis & Elkins College ladies lacrosse team, Youth Build North Central and Appalachian Forest Heritage Area AmeriCorps members, are creating more quilt blocks for instillation on several downtown Elkins buildings this fall.

YMCA Wall with Maple Leave“Maple Leaf” quilt block mounted at the YMCA building in downtown Elkins

The Heritage Quilt Trail began in 2015 with members of the Main Street Promotion Committee discussing how the brightly colored panels could spark a grass roots beautification effort. With information gathered from the Pocahontas County and Monroe County W.Va. quilt trails the committee set out to make their own quit trail. Quilt panels like the one above are created with grant funds and project proceeds received by the Elkins Main Street office.  The funds are used to purchase the construction materials and paint needed to make the 4, 8’ X 8’ft panels. Money gained from the sale of the quilt block panels in turn pays for the creation of more panels in smaller sizes. The current plan includes making 12 panels of three different sizes.

GE DIGITAL CAMERAMembers of Emma Scott Garden Club paint “Bear Paw” quilt block panel

The images used to create the quilt block panels are copied from traditional Appalachian quilts. They represent things that a family from the mountains would see or use every day. The patterns are often designed after nature. Leaves, animals and trees are the most often found subjects in West Virginia quilts, but other patterns like baskets, houses, and stars are also popular. Often families would use remnant materials from old clothing and sewing projects to make the quilts. Mixing materials and colors made each quilt unique and cherished by the owner.

A single quilt block panel will often take over a month to make, from design ideas, to painting, to an installed product. The Heritage Quilt Trail panels have approximately  15 different volunteers’ handy work as part of their finished product and installation. This part of the process is also reminiscent of the traditional creation of fabric quilts. In days past, friends and family would gather for quilting bees, but  today  Elkins Main Street  hosts painting parties, where people from the community come together to get to know one another and take part in community  art.

AmeriCrops working on Hertiage Quilt Block Panels   AmeriCorps Members Molly Greenhouse, Dominic Piacentini , JoLynn Powers (project coordinator) and Katie Marie Simmons add tape pattern to the 8 x 8 ft. panel.

 instillation of Quilt block at YMCA 2017
Volunteers help install the “Log Cabin” Heritage Quilt Block at the YMCA in Elkins

It takes a diverse group of volunteers to make the Heritage Quilt trail possible, and it brings a community together to enjoy them. With the future creation and installation of all 12 panels, the Main Street Promotion Committee hopes to publish a Heritage Quilt Trail Map.  The map/ brochure will give the location of the quilt block panels, a description of the images used and information about the history of quilting in Appalachia. Elkins Main Street hopes to give visitors another interesting reason to linger in the downtown and take time to enjoy the beauty of Elkins.

closeup of West Virginia Star.jpg“West Virginia Star” installed at the Davis Trust Company Bank, Elkins W.Va.

 

Categories: AmeriCorps, Appalachian Mountains, Art, Elkins Main Street, Elkins West Virginia, public art, West Virginia | Tags: , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Coming Home to West Virginia; Saving a 1860’s Family Home.

“Coming home to West Virginia” is how David Cutlip described the adventure of saving his Great Grandfather’s log cabin constructed in the 1860’s. The story spans 4 generations, crosses state lines and brings new life to a beloved log home.

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The Cutlip Reconstructed 1860’s cabin in Beverly, West Virginia.

This story begins along a rural road in what is now Webster County, West Virginia with  Marion Wilson Cutlip who built a log home in the mid 1860’s. The cabin is made from hewed poplar logs that grew on the 250 acre farm near the community of Hacker Valley. Marion,his wife and four children were the first to call the cabin home, but not the last.Little did Marion know that he had creating a home that would last for over 150 years and would pass to his Great Grandson. Living and working the land as farmers,the family eventually out grew the small log home that measures only 16′ x 23′ feet. So, in the early 1900’s additions and siding were added, hiding the hewed logs from view. In the 1970’s, the house was no longer occupied  daily and this is how it appeared for the remainder of the years it sat on the farm.

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Cutlip family home Webster County, West Virginia 1860’s before moving the logs to Randolph County, West Virginia in 2007.

Years passed, the farm and home were eventually sold out of the Cutlip family.Times change and members of the family moved away from West Virginia looking for better opportunities, including Davids family. David returned to West Virginia to attend college at Davis and Elkins College, and visited the old home place many times while a student. His love of family history and the families ties to the house continued to grow until adulthood. While living and working in Ohio, he never forgot the house from his childhood or the way West Virginia made him feel. In 2007 the farmer who then owned the house allowed Dave and his wife Patricia to purchase the home back and the real work began.

 

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After tare down and the reconstruction of the Cutlip log home with help from Mark Bowe.

By the end of 2009 David and Patricia began the work of finding out if the logs of the house were salvageable. As with all houses of this age, water and bugs (termites here in W.V.) can wreak havoc on old logs. With some searching the couple found a nice location for the future log home outside the small town of Beverly, West Virginia. Then they found Mark Bowe the owner of “Antique Cabins and Barns” in Lewisburg, West Virginia who would be charged with dismantling and moving the heavy logs. Mark  Bowe (before “Barnwood Builder” Fame) found the project promising and within a few months had his crew (some that are still members of the “Barnwood Builders” television show today) dismantle the house. By the end of the first week the 150 year old logs were dismantled, loaded and trucked away to a storage yard in Lewisburg, WV.

Nearly two years later Mark and his crew delivered the logs from the Lewisburg log yard to the new home site where a new foundation had been constructed.The work to construct a new log home continued over the next 5 years. As this was not David and Patricia’s primary home they took their time to make their dream retirement home come true. In the end the home is the perfect balance of old and new features,that keeps its warm rustic appeal.

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David Cutlip, Thomas Powers, Patricia Mayes with Christopher Powers at the back addition of their log home in Beverly, WV Jan 2017

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Front yard view of Cutlip log home with additions Jan 2017

To the log home,the couple added space to the small original floor plan. They added a modern kitchen, dinning room,a study, two bathrooms and quest room to the design. They were able to keep the historic feel by reusing many of the features from the log cabin, such as the hearth stone and fire-place surround that David remembers as a child. Dave and Patricia have added antiques and family heirlooms to the decor of the home.These additions make a warm and inviting space that honors the generations of his family that worked the land so hard to create this log home.

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Living room with Hearthstone and fireplace surround from original house build by David Cutlips Great Grandfather in the 1860’s.

 

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Modern Kitchen addition added to the Cutlip/ Mayes home with a light and airy feel.

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Gas log fire-place behind antique farm table in modern addition of the Cutlip/Mayes log home.

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Master bedroom with sitting area in 1860’s portion of the house.

David and Patricia have collected a verity of antiques to decorate their home. With two interesting items that stand out when you spend some time in the log home. One is Davids Grate Grandfathers desk that was made on the Webster County Farm and the Linsey- Woolsey coverlets that his Great Grandmother wove from flax and wool from the family farm in the late 1800’s.

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Hand made desk made by Marion Cutlip in Webster County, West Virginia. Shown in the home of his Great Grandson David Cutlip, Randolph County West Virginia 2017.

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Hand woven Linsey-Woolsey bed coverlets made by David’s Great Grandmother on the Webster County farm, late in the 1800’s

It is heartwarming to know that both of these wonderful heirlooms were not only made by his family on the farm, but were made from products on that farm. The desk is made of poplar planks that were milled from trees that grew in the woods of the Webster County  farm. Marion Cutlip designed and constructed this desk to be used in this very same house. David said after our tour that with 6 people living in the 2 story, 16’X 23′ log cabin together “He thought that this desk was about the only space that his Great Grandfather had in the entire house”( and I do not doubt him one bit).

The coverlets were made by  Davids Great Grandmother. The family produced the wool from their own sheep and grew the flax that would be spun into linen for the coverlets.I was amazed at the coloring and detailed patterns of the Linsey-Woolsey blankets and can only imagine the time it took to make just one of these covers. In more modern times families who used this type of fabric and dressed in the bright patterns and plaids that could be woven on a family looms were thought to be poor. As the rich were able to buy fine imported materials from Europe. Today, any person who could master this art would charge highly for their fabrics and would be looked at as an artisan of the highest order. The skill of making your own fiber and fabric is a tradition that is long-lost in our day and age.

My visit to my friend’s home was such a wonderful learning experience. My family and I took away lots of great ideas for our own home remodel. We got to hear some wonderful stories about the people and history of our state and were reminded that it is possible to  bring together the past and the present and make a dream come true. David Cutlip and his wonderful wife Patricia Mayes have saved not only an old house from further deterioration but made a beautiful home from the dreams of a young man many miles from where he called home.

 

 

 

 

Categories: Barnwood Builders, Beverly West Virginia, cabins, Country life, DIY projects, family memories, Farming, Hacker Valley, heirlooms, Homestead, log home, Randolph County, Webster Springs, 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: , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

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