Excuse for An Excursion: Helvetia’s Fasnacht

By Alex, PAWV VISTA

Fasnacht is the pre-Lenten festival celebrated in the Swiss community of Helvetia, West Virginia located in Randolph County. This festival celebrates the burning of “Old Man Winter”. It occurs on the Saturday before Ash Wednesday; this year, it will take place on February 14, 2015. The festival is similar to Mardi Gras and has its roots in the Swiss Winter Festival.

Saturday afternoon features food, beverages, and open mic music in the Star Band (Red) Hall, a food at the Hutte restaurant, and milling around the local shops. Masks from previous Fasnachts are featured at the Fasnacht Mask Museum. At 8:00 p.m., a parade featuring large, often frightening, and quite artistic masks travels from the Red Hall to the Community Hall where the costumes are judged and the square dance begins. At midnight the effigy of Old Man Winter is cut down from the ceiling of the Community Hall, carried on the shoulders of the celebrants to the bonfire outside, and burned to signal the end of Winter. (Although, the warming effect is not always immediate!)

West Virginians celebrate with homemade masks reflecting their unique personalities and professions.
West Virginians celebrate with homemade masks reflecting their unique personalities and professions.                   (Photo credit: Mary Arose)

A typical schedule of the festival is as follows:
9:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m. Helvetia Mask Museum and General Store are open in Kultur Haus Helvetia.
3:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m. Open Mic, food, and beverages. Star Band (Red) Hall.
5:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m. Food and Greetings – Hutte Restaurant
8:30 p.m. – 8:45 p.m. Lampion (candlelight) parade – Star Band Hall to Community Hall.
8:45 p.m. – 9:00 p.m. Judging costumes – Prizes – Community Hall.
9:00 p.m. – 12:00 p.m. Masked Ball – Community Hall.
12:00 a.m. – 1:00 a.m. Burning Old Man Winter – outside Community Hall.

Make your way to Helvetia to experience this historic, cultural, and fun West Virginia festival!

See http://helvetiawv.com/Events/Fasnacht/Fasnacht.htm for more information.

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