HELVETIA - "Son, follow your bliss" is something Dr. Rogers McAvoy used to tell his son, Phil, and now it's becoming reality for the community of Helvetia.
For the third year, the Follow Your Bliss Helvetia Festival attracted large crowds and focused attention on preservation efforts in the tiny Central West Virginia hamlet.
Rogers McAvoy was a true West Virginian from the start and discovered Helvetia, nestled in the mountains, on one of his many adventures. After retiring from West Virginia University, where he was an educational psychology professor for 35 years, the beauty he stumbled upon in his youth lured him into the mountains.
Weirton native Everett Mentz plays a song he wrote about the village of Helvetia. (The Inter-Mountain photo by Sarah Cooper)
McAvoy followed his bliss and moved into one of Helvetia's historic buildings as he pursued his passion for West Virginia history and family genealogy
He became ill in 2010 and died in 2011, but through this experiences, his son became involved and realized just how much the preservation of the community meant to his father and many others.
"I started to get a sense that this little town was more than just a little town," said McAvoy.
The younger McAvoy was inspired to create a free festival in his father's honor, where participants could donate money toward preservation projects in the quaint small town. He then combined efforts with longtime Helvetia resident and family friend, Kevin Betler, who knew Rogers McAvoy well, to revive musical traditions through the festival.
"Music has always been a big heritage, but with a lot of people moving out it makes it harder to have that music available.
We're trying to reenergize the music scene too, so we thought it was a good idea to incorporate both," said Butler.
Each year it is held the weekend after Father's Day to further honor, the elder McAvoy.
This year, the weekend-long festival aims to raise enough money to contribute to putting a new roof on the Kultur Haus, a pivotal structure developed by the community.
Along with donating a portion of the money to Hospice Care Inc. in an action of thanks for the services they provide to those who are sick, the festival is looking ahead toward raising money for future projects, such as a museum to house the Fasnacht masks.
The festival received the commitments of 15 musicians and musical groups who played throughout the weekend and had vendors from Mountain State Brewing, Thomas' Healthberry Farms, Wild Ginger and woodworking tables among other events.
Many camped throughout the weekend, resulting in a large portion of donations being raised through the dining services provided at the event. Attendees and past bands also returned to share their love for the Helvetia community.
"I waited all year for this. My birthday was last week, and now this is my birthday ritual," said Fairmont resident, Carol Phillips.
Those interested in contributing to this year's Kultur Haus project can contact Betler at 304-924-9100 or e-mail KulturHaus@HelvetiaWV.com. Tax deductible donation can be made to Helvetia Restoration and Development Organization - a 501(c)3 corporation - earmarked for Kultur Haus Helvetia and mailed to: HRDO, P.O. Box 10, Helvetia, WV 26224.