Residents of Helen honored their German sister city for the third year in a row by celebrating Fasching, Germany’s version of Mardi Gras.
As snow fell Saturday afternoon, 12 brave souls tubed down the Chattahoochee River through the center of town to the disbelief of many bystanders.
In Fussen, Germany, Helen’s Friendship City, the tradition is slightly different: Firemen jump off of the bridge into the Lech River on the Saturday prior to Fat Tuesday.
Walt Snyder beat a bass drum under an umbrella as he drank brandy through a straw.
“It’s like a big fish story,” Synder said. “Every time people talked about it last year, it got more cold. It definitely wasn’t snowing like this.”
Residents and out-of-towners lined the street to witness the spectacle as the powdery-white streets made the scene appear all the more Bavarian.
There were thoroughly American details, of course. The band played classic Mardi Gras tunes like “When The Saints Go Marching In.”
In 2011, the year of the new tradition’s inception, three people braved winter in the river. Last year, there were 11 in the tubing procession. The number this year was expected to be more than 20, but the wintry weather whittled that down to 12.
But those who took part had no fear.
“The colder, the better!” Randy Summers of Columbus declared, clad in a bright orange jumpsuit.
At 2 p.m., participants threw their neon green tubes on their backs and walked in procession from the Helendorf Inn, their official headquarters, to the entry spot on the river.
The first stop: A Mexican restaurant where participants downed peach-and-apple flavored schnapps.
The next pit stop was King Ludwig’s Bier Garden, where the troubadours took a lip-smacking cinnamon-flavored schnapps drink.
Once it came time for the pilgrims to embark, spectators cheered the tubers down the river. Some of the onlookers threw snowballs at the spirited crew.
Once the tubers were back on dry land, the revelry continued through the night back at the Helendorf Inn.