Editor’s note: Some last names are not being used in the interests of protecting personal privacy.
PAW PAW, W.Va. — As the state’s only clothing-optional resort, Avalon is perhaps best known for offering a variety of activities (everything from swimming to pickle ball and tennis) as well as lodging and housing options to individuals who prefer living au natural.
But the people who know it best maintain that there’s something even more important than nudity about the resort – and that is its strong sense of community, combined with residents’ ongoing efforts to make the world (especially this rural part of the Eastern Panhandle) a little better.
It’s an especially important time since the resort -property that originally housed a Church of God camp – is celebrating its 20th anniversary and showing no signs of slowing down or going away since it now has 400 to 500 paid members, said general manager Julie Kidwell.
And that number rises when the number of day-fee participants are included, she said.
No stranger to the region, Avalon residents take part in Paw Paw’s annual Memorial Day parade, provide a Fourth of July fireworks show and also routinely help pick up trash along the road leading to the approximately 140 acres of land that is home to the resort, she said.
Members are proud to show off their community, which includes a lodge, townhouses, camping sites and even some private homes, without any embarrassment. There’s also a community library and fire station.
No one seems squeamish or shy about being naked – not even when visitors come to take part in a number of different festivals and musical events that are open to the public.
Take the recent Bikes, Blues and BBQ event, which featured a juried motorcycle show and guided area rides, for example.
Proceeds benefited the Wounded Warrior Project, and it has provided hundreds of dollars to the nonprofit organization since the annual event got underway.
There’s also time to just enjoy nature and celebrate the seasons, including the fourth annual FaerieFest that was held last weekend and billed as a way to celebrate the summer solstice while also enjoying some mountain music and magic as well as the opportunity to “just wear wings.”
Although this celebration kicked off Friday night with a campfire and drum circle, there’s always plenty to do since billiards are available in the Bare Barn, games are featured in the Nudsino and new fit menu options (including an egg white omelet with fresh fruit and fresh chicken breast grilled in coconut oil) are now offered.
Members’ generosity can be seen at the Bare Barn, which was at least 30 years old, dilapidated and had a leaking metal roof before approximately $20,000 was raised in about a month to revamp it – complete with ceiling fans and disco ball reflections that could easily be mistaken for starlight when the lights are dimmed, said Chris.
“It’s just a wonderful place for our DJ and to enjoy music, no matter the season or temperature,” he said.
One thing they don’t appreciate is being called a nudist colony, said Nevin Paradise, explaining that that term always had a negative tone and wasn’t accurate from the start.
“Somehow the idea of a colony indicates that you are stuck and have to stay there, so this in no way is a nudist colony because we are a clothing-optional resort. I would say the term nudist colony went out in the 1950s,” he said.
“So we don’t use that word, and it is almost kind of offensive,” Paradise said.
Avalon is somewhat different because individuals can choose whether or not to disrobe – how much and when, he said, adding that some nudist facilities are less flexible about allowing clothing to be worn.
“Since we are clothing optional, you can come here as a first timer and feel very comfortable because you’re not immediately forced to get nude. A lot of women will throw a shawl or wrap over them, but when you start looking around it’s clear that everyone else is comfortable naked,” he said.
It’s all about choice, and that is a big attraction for many folks – professionals including doctors, high-ranking military officials and federal employees, said Paradise, who formerly worked for an airline.
“At one time we had the highest ranking Hispanic Army officer in the world here. But the main thing is that we come here to be together, to enjoy life and to be a community of caring individuals,” he said.
– Staff writer Jenni Vincent can be reached at 304-263-8931, ext. 131.