Fasnacht is the pre-lenten burning of Old Man Winter. It occurs on the Saturday before Ash Wednesday and is likened to Mardi Gras, with its roots in the Swiss Winterfest, but with it’s own West Virginia flare.
When I first arrived in Helvetia 4 years ago, I felt like I’d just traveled back in time a few hundred years, to a small village in the Swiss Alps.
The community is very friendly, as I find in many rural West Virginia towns, and I soon felt accepted by them all (and by accepted I mean, I was treated like family).
But, to say that Helvetia isn’t up with the times would be a complete farce. Just ask Clara Lehmann & Jonathan Lacocque about they’re company Coat of Arms. Coat of Arms is an original post-production service, including editing, color, motion graphics, visual effects, illustration, scoring, and sound design for film, television, and the web. Out of Helvetia, they’re managing projects all over the world. Check out their amazing work after you finish browsing photos!
Unless you have access to Jonathan and Clara’s home wifi, you won’t be asking Siri anything because she can’t hear you over the mountains protecting the town from the buzzing cell phone enabled world.
In no way is it a bad thing, in fact for me it’s one of the best things about being there. It’s a return to that analog connection, physically embracing friends, singing Country Roads around a campfire…that sort of thing.
By happen stance, one of my best friends that I’ve known since kindergarten, Billy Wolf wrote two very compelling stories about Fasnacht for the Charleston Daily Mail. The first is story is about Eleanor Fahrner Mailloux (a must read about the matriarch of Helvetia), and the second article is Fasnacht Festival, a Helvetia tradition.
During the day and into the eve music plays in the Star Band Hall, along with the consumption of beers and bratwurst, providing the physical and mental lubrication promoting the adoption of the spirit embodied by the festival.
From the Star Band Hall, and with a full belly, a frenzy of costume wearing men, women, and children make their way to the Helvetia Community Hall. There, we square dance until I can no longer stand.
After much said dancing, the bonfire is lit, and an effigy of Old Man Winter (who hangs in the middle of the dance hall), is burnt along with many of the masks. And away goes winter! …hopefully.
If you enjoyed this year’s Fasnacht photos, CLICK HERE to see a few more from the last few years.