A century ago, a small mill town in White County was named after the daughter of the owner of a major lumber company. From that point on, the city was known as Helen.
Since then, the city has seen many changes to its buildings and industry. This year, the city is celebrating everything Helen has represented during the past 100 years with centennial activities.
In anticipation of its 100th birthday, Helen City Hall formed a committee to plan events along with the aid of commissioners and volunteers. The celebration is designed to feature events showing every aspect that makes Helen unique. Centennial activities will begin Saturday and continue through Sept. 7.
“We’re trying to have events that fit in with Helen, and we’re trying to have all different types of events,” Helen city manager Jerry Elkins said.
Helen’s biggest birthday ever will kick off Aug. 24 with the city’s first Musicfest. All musical acts will feature Georgia artists from mostly the north Georgia mountains. Performers include Destitute Way, a band from Dahlonega, and Clay Coley, an artist from Douglasville, who appeared on “American Idol.” Concert headliners will be The Fiddle Heads, a Dahlonega-based group featured on “America’s Got Talent.”
Musicfest will be at 5 p.m. Saturday at the Festhalle. Admission is $10 per person. The city plans to host this as a one-time event specifically for the 100th anniversary.
Activities will continue on Labor Day weekend with the Floating River Parade, a traditional event held for more than 30 years in Helen. Participants may decorate a float or tube. The parade starts at 1 p.m. Aug. 31 at the Riverbend Motel.
The parade will be followed by a large fireworks display set to begin at 9:15 p.m. behind the Alpine Village Shoppes.
Elkins said the activities were set to involve the community in their biggest anniversary yet.
“For one thing, we wanted the citizens of the city of Helen, along with all the residents of White County, to help us celebrate our birthday,” he said. “(The events have) a lot to do with Helen and its background.”
On Sept. 6-7, the celebration will proceed with the All American Lumberjack Show, featuring all-day events. Events designed for children such as the All American Lumberjack School Show will be Sept. 6. Admission is free.
On Sept. 7, professionals in the lumber industry will hold the Kids’ Lumberjack Sport Camp, designed to teach students about the history of the lumberjack. The camp will also feature demonstrations of chain saw carving.
This event, also a first for the city, will reflect Helen’s early history, Elkins said. He said lumber was what got Helen started, but it was the vision of local businessmen that made it what it is today.
“All the saw mills were set up here in the downtown area, practically, of the city, and once all the lumber was cut of course, the town sort of died out,” he said.
In 1969, as the city was in danger of becoming a ghost town, three businessmen discussed the future of the city and how revive the community. An artist named John Kollock, who had returned from World War II, helped the men devise a new plan with the concept of a Bavarian-style town in the North Georgia mountains.
Kollock saw landscape similarities between Helen and the mountain valleys of Germany. He then sketched a Bavarian Helen. The portraits were presented to citizens and merchants of the small saw mill town. From there, things would never look the same in Helen, Elkins said.
“Each business owner started changing their building to the Alpine motif, and of course it grew from there,” he said.
The city of Helen will wrap up its activities with the traditional “Saw Mill Village Style” Street Dance. Downtown Helen will feature a live music and dance event at 7 p.m. Sept. 7. Visitors are invited to wear an outfit representing their favorite historical era.
Call 800-858-8027 for more information.