Last Sunday we drove up to Helen, GA, for an impromptu day trip/beer extravaganza. Helen, you see, is an adorable little village that looks like it was plucked out of Bavaria and nestled into Appalachia. Random? Absolutely. Disneyfied? Quite possibly. But it’s home to one of the longest running Oktoberfest festivals in to country, so of course we had to check it out.
Beer and polka, they had a-plenty, not to mention endless “shoppes” (including a Dutch import store where the stroopwafels were plentiful!). The mountains were gorgeous in the background too—it’s a bit early for the leaves to be changing, but the rolling forest on all sides was still impressive. Helen is right on the Chattahoochee River, as well, and if the weather had been a little warmer (or if I’d had a few more pitchers of Paulaner), I might have been tempted to go tubing. All in all, the whole experience was truly idyllic.
According to the Helen, GA website:
“In January 1969, three Helen businessmen were meeting at a local restaurant. They were wondering if there wasn’t some way to spruce up the old main street and encourage the tourists to stop on their way north into the mountains. One suggested he would speak with an artist that he knew from church in Clarkesville. That artist was John Kollock, whose family had deep roots in the area. John agreed to take some photos and draw up some sketches. He was inspired by seeing the town nestled in a small mountain valley and recalled his time in service in Germany and his visits to Bavarian towns in similar mountain valleys. The resulting sketches were well received by the citizens and the merchants.
By the fall of 1969, Helen had reinvented itself and many of the old buildings had new facades. The fall leaf season brought new visitors and later new merchants as well. Over the last 40 years the town has grown dramatically adding new ventures, shops, and venues with varying amounts of success. The story of Helen’s reinvention is one of local entrepreneurship and civic cooperation that changed a dying lumber town into Georgia’s third most visited city.”
And now you know.