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Helvetia Fair to celebrate 100 years

By TIM MacVEAN

The Inter-Mountain

HELVETIA, W.Va.  — An annual fair in a rural Randolph County community will be celebrating its century mark this weekend with a wide array of exhibits and activities.

A parade travels down Main Street in Helvetia during the 2016 Helvetia Fair. The fair will be celebrating its 100th anniversary this weekend.
(Submitted photo)

The town of Helvetia will hold its 100th Helvetia Fair Saturday and Sunday, complete with a parade, dancing and music.

Saturday will kick off with exhibits at the Community Hall and craft vendors at the Star Band Hall, as well as a book sale at the library, a philatelic cancellation at the post office and archives at the schoolhouse, all from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

This year’s vendors will include Cartwright’s Creations, Clay Street Studios and Rose Ann’s Woven Goods, along with artwork by Joe McInroy, Noel Tenney, Timothy Hibbs, Anna Lehmann, Clara Lehmann and many more.

“We’ll also have many quilts, crochet work, turkey callers, handcrafted wood work and other uniquely handcrafted goods. We take pride in having a diverse array of very talented artists and crafters at our fair,” said Jonathan Lacocque, secretary of the Helvetia Fair Association.

From 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, the Blue Rock Marionette Theater will perform at the gazebo near the library. At 1 p.m. a horseshoe contest will be offered.

At 2 p.m., the Alpine Parade will step-off on Main Street. Swiss folk dancing, alphorn playing, singing and yodeling and Fahnenschwingen (flag swinging) will also take place at that time.

The first day of the centennial event will wrap up with field events and games, live music and a bouncy house from 4 to 6 p.m., followed by a square dance at the Community Hall from 7 to 10 p.m.

Sunday’s festivities will begin at 8:45 a.m. with a kid’s run, followed at 9 a.m. by the Helvetia 10K Mountain Run and 2-mile walk.

From 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., the same exhibits, vendors, book sale and archives will be open to festival attendees. The William Tell archery shoot will also take place that afternoon.

The fair will conclude with a “Program in the Meadow,” which includes Swiss folk dancing, alphorn playing, singing and yodeling.

“The Swiss Program in the meadow — or in the Community Hall if it rains – is also a highlight of the cultural festivities of the fair,” Lacocque said. “You’ll see Swiss folk dancing, singing, alphorn playing and a whole array of entertaining Swiss festivities.”

Refreshments will be available at the Community Hall from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Saturday and 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Sunday.

Helvetia is a small Swiss community located within Randolph County. The Helvetia Fair is one of the smallest agricultural fairs in West Virginia.

“People should come out to the Fair for many reasons. It’s quite unique as one of the oldest agricultural fairs in West Virginia. But also because of the Swiss heritage here in Helvetia. As someone who wasn’t born here — I’m from the Chicago area — I can speak confidently about how magical this place can feel,” Lacocque said. “And the fair is a wonderful way to celebrate some of that unique wonder that visitors may find here. It’s a place that is both immediately different and yet feels completely familiar.

“It’s really hard to describe until you visit. There’s a calmness and friendliness here that merges Appalachian culture with the Swiss culture settlers brought here. A great example of this is the Alpine Parade which runs through town. This isn’t your traditional parade by any means. It showcases area families, organizations and friends celebrating their heritage and love for a place they consider home,” he continued. “Everything is hand done, and many people spend a great deal of time considering fun storylines or unique scenes for their floats. There’s quite a bit of fun spectacle to the parade. I’d say the fun families are having in the parade tends to be contagious for the visitors.”

He added this year’s fair should be special.

“I think celebrating 100 years is an absolutely incredible achievement and something this community should feel very proud of. One thing I think Helvetia has excelled at is finding a way to hold on to its heritage and history,” Lacocque said. “It makes the town unique and helps give that feeling of magic I described earlier. Helvetia, and this fair, can perhaps act as a reminder to all of us, regardless of where we come from, that we’re more than just right now in some way.

“We come from somewhere, have influences reaching back in our past that we may not always know of or consider, and that everyone should feel pride in who they are. Maybe it sounds cheesy, but one thing I’ve learned from this fair, and the very few years of the 100 I’ve spent as a part of it, is that community is a wonderful and beautiful thing,” he continued. “Maybe now, more than ever, the fair celebrating 100 years reminds us that coming together to celebrate each other is important, and that there will be a tomorrow where our history or legacy can be remembered.”

Each year, farmers, artisans and children display their work at the Helvetia Community Hall the second full weekend in September as part of the fair. Canned green beans, yellow squash, cookies, tatting, wildflower arrangements, 4-H projects, watercolor paintings and much more line the hall to honor the past year and to uphold local history, according to the fair website.

For more information or to apply as a vendor, visit http://helvetiafair.com/.

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