In Helvetia, Culture Fest doesn't clash — it complements

The Helvetia Culture Fest will feature alphorns and music.An unusual blend of two cultures — Native American and Swiss — will be highlighted when Helvetia, a farming neighborhood north of Hillsboro, holds its 5th annual Helvetia Culture Fest Sunday, Sept. 22.

The Helvetia Community Association, a nonprofit that focuses on preserving the land and town of Helvetia, puts together this family-friendly fair.

“We started this festival because we wanted to share with folks what makes Helvetia special,” said Cherry Amabisca, the President of the Helvetia Community Association.

The town of Helvetia has a unique history in Washington County. For centuries, the Atfalati — the Tualatin Band of the Kalapuya — lived in what is now the Forest Grove and Hillsboro area before being moved to reservations and joining the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde.

In the late 1800s, Swiss settlers arrived, drawn partly by the rolling hills of the Tualatin Valley, which are so similar to the landscape in certain parts of Switzerland. There are currently fourth- and fifth-generation Swiss families in the area. Helvetia is the Swiss word for Switzerland.

Sunday’s festival will include both Native American and Swiss music, burgers from Helvetia Tavern, strudel from Beaverton Bakery, and produce and crafts from local vendors. There will be a kid’s craft corner, a pie walk, and a chance to try out an alphorn. by: COURTESY PHOTO: HELVETIA CULTURE FEST - Descendants of the Kalapuya tribe will drum and answer questions on Helvetias Native American roots this weekend.

“Some people come just to get a chance to hear and play alphorns,” said Amabisca.

Members from the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde will share their culture through artifacts and song, including singing and drumming. They will also station a booth where people can talk with them and ask questions. At past fairs, some people have brought artifacts, hoping to get information from tribal members.

The Oregon-based Swiss touring group, Jodelklub Edelwyss, will yodel and sing. Drawn from across Oregon, its members include several from the Helvetia area. A local bluegrass band, the Pudding River Band, will also entertain.

People from all over Washington County and beyond flock to Helvetia Culture Fest. Last year, approximately 250 people attended the three-hour festival. That almost reaches the festival’s maximum capacity, said Amabisca, who encourages people to pre-order tickets online.

“It’s such a community effort,” she said. “Local businesses help out, and the entire festival is run by volunteers.”

The festival takes place on the Accoyo Alpaca farm, giving visitors a pictorial view of the Tualatin Valley. The alpacas, while not a part of the festival, have been known to wander up to the fence during the celebration. Since alpacas are nervous creatures, the HCA advises visitors to leave their pets at home.

This will also be the nonprofit’s third consecutive year earning a grant from the Washington County Cultural Coalition.

“We’re being recognized on lots of fronts, so that’s great news,” said Amabisca. “Helvetia gets over a thousand visitors per year, and this is just one way to keep more coming. You won’t find anything like this.”

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