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Annual festival celebrates Helvetia's art and heritage

NEWS-TIMES/HILLSBORO TRIBUNE FILE PHOTO - An enthusiastic crowd participates in the Pie Walk during the 2015 Helvetia Fest.The annual Helvetia Culture Fest showcases performing arts from the people who’ve lived in the area for generations. This year marks the eighth year for the festival, which takes place between 1 and 5 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 14, at Pacific Crest Alpacas, 12995 N.W. Bishop Road in northwest Washington County.

Ancestral inhabitants of the Helvetia area, including the Tualatins (the original native inhabitants) and the Swiss-German settlers who came to the area in the 1870s, are the festival’s focus. The latter named this area Helvetia (“Switzerland” in Latin) because the rolling hills and productive farmland reminded them of their native country.

“With more than 100,000 people visiting Helvetia every year to enjoy its U-pick fruit, lavender, pumpkin and Christmas tree farms, wine tastings, bike riding and upland countryside, we see Helvetia Fest as an opportunity to educate people about Helvetia’s unique heritage,” said Cherry Amabisca, President of Helvetia Community Association. “It’s a fun event for families to enjoy and learn new things about Helvetia at the same time.”

This year’s festival will offer an array of native dance and Swiss music.Native dancers will be among the attractions at Helvetia Fest Sunday, Aug. 14.

A troupe of dancers from the acclaimed Painted Sky Dance Company will share traditional tribal dances and drumming, while Folsom Band will perform high-energy classic hits by Johnny Cash, with a twist.

Elizabeth Woody, an enrolled member of the Confederate Tribes of Warm Springs in Oregon, will also make an appearance. An acclaimed poet, her work reflects her close ties with her family, the natural world and her people.

In keeping with Helvetia’s Swiss and Native American heritages, locally made food will be offered for purchase, as well as local wine from Helvetia Winery and beer from Vertigo Brewery.

Entertainment for children will come in the forms of face-painting and crafts. Gift baskets of Helvetia products and services will be available for bidding in a silent auction, and unique Helvetia items will be available for purchase. Ginny Mapes, a local author and historian, will host a Helvetia history table to showcase her new book, “The Tualatins,” which features never-before-published photos of local petroglyphs and artifacts.

The festival’s signature fundraising activity is the Pie Walk — or more accurately, six of them — throughout the afternoon. Helvetia’s premier pie bakers donate their best homemade pies and guests wager $5 per ticket for the chance to win one of 18 delicious pies.

“It’s my absolute favorite part of the entire festival,” said Amabisca. “It’s like a cake walk, except there’s pie.”

Admission is $10 for adults over 18 and free for anyone younger. The proceeds from admission tickets go directly to ongoing conservation and preservation efforts in the Helvetia community. They can be purchased at helvetiaculturefest.org.