Helvetia Hoot celebrates West Virginia traditional arts

HELVETIA — Helvetia Hoot, formerly known as Dare to be Square West Virginia, returns to Helvetia, this Labor Day Weekend, Aug. 31 and Sept. 1. Helvetia Hoot celebrates the traditions that make this region unique, offering workshops in old-time music, craft, dance, folklore, foodways, square dance calling and much more.

“The goal of Helvetia Hoot is to bring together people from all over the region to celebrate West Virginia. You can come dabble in square dance calling, try your hand at natural dying, shuffle your feet around in a flatfoot dance workshop, or just soak up the beauty of Helvetia. I hope by the end of the weekend attendants will have learned something new. To keep these traditions vibrant, it’s all about sharing it with one another and passing it on,” stated Becky Hill, organizer.

More than 20 workshops for musicians, callers, dancers and curious people are planned for the weekend with public square dances on both Saturday and Sunday night. Workshop highlights include Helvetia Fiddle Tunes with Jesse Milnes; a Gospel Sing with Ginny Hawker; Pawpaws and other Appalachian Forageables with author Sara Bir; Auctioneering with Alex Udis; Beginning Square Dance Calling with T-Claw; Flatfooting with Becky Hill; Natural Dying with Brittany Hicks; Glenville Style Square Dances with Mack Samples, Lou Maiuri and Bill Ohse; Dunmore Square Dances with Ellen and Eugene Ratcliffe; A Guided Historical Walk through Helvetia with Dave Whipp; Appalachian Foodways with Mike Costello and Amy Dawson of Lost Creek Farm; Old-Time Singing with Val Mindel; Honky Tonk with Emily Miller and Jesse Milnes; West Virginia Fiddle Tunes with Gerry Milnes; Play Party Games with Mary Alice Milnes and so much more.

There is an admissions fee, and children younger than17 are free to all events. Rustic camping is available for those planning to stay for the weekend, with a donation fee. Scholarships and volunteer positions are available on a first come, first serve basis. Send inquiries to www.mountaindancetrail.org.

“Helvetia is a magical place. My first visit was for the 2015 Dare to Be Square. I could not believe I was still in Randolph County. It was beautiful, welcoming, and a super idyllic spot for a traditional square dance convergence. The local community seemed happy to host. As a participant, I absorbed the stories and culture while becoming friends with some of my favorite old timers. This year Becky enlisted my help, since I now live in Elkins. We thought it would be fun to broaden the scope of the event to feature activities for friends and family in addition to the 24/7 dance and music. Hence the rebranding, ‘Helvetia Hoot!'” said T-Claw Crawford, organizer and square dance caller from Nashville, Tennessee.

The Saturday night dance on Aug. 31gets underway at 8 p.m. and features the Helvetia Star Band followed by Jesse Milnes, David O’Dell, Rory Mullenex and Joe Bass. There is an admission fee, but is free to children 17 and younger. These dances are an evening of high-energy family fun, all dances are family friendly and participants don’t need to come with a dance partner. The Sunday evening dance on Sept. 1 features Big Possum Stringband with Tessa Dillon, Evan McBrayer-Collins, and Seth Swingle. “Big Possum won first place at the Appalachian Stringband Festival at Clifftop in 2018 and are returning back to West Virginia from a tour in Australia to play this dance,” stated organizer, Hill.

This is the fifth time this event has been held in West Virginia and Hill hopes it will continue it for years to come, “Helvetia is the perfect place to hold a workshop weekend, there are two beautiful dance halls, a rich old-time music and dance tradition, and a supportive community that helps make it happen,” said Hill.

Helvetia, settled by Swiss in 1869, is a sweet mountaintop town with a current population of 59. The community is known for maintaining Swiss cultural traditions in its seasonal gatherings such as Fasnacht and monthly dances. Rustic camping for the Hoot is available in a tree lined field alongside the creek between the town’s two dance halls, general store, and Swiss restaurant.

To register for the weekend or to learn about square dances throughout West Virginia, visit www.mountaindancetrail.org and check out the event on Facebook. To visit Helvetia and learn about events hosted there, visit www.helvetiawv.com.