(Featured Longreader Justin Heckert’s pick of the week.) Every September, Helen, a town of 750 people clustered on two square miles in a mountain valley, braces to accommodate up to 300,000 guests over the course of this uber-party. Steins will be hoisted; spindly, pale thighs will chafe under lederhosen; and someone inevitably will fall and sprain an ankle while doing the ungainly “chicken dance,” providing onlooking buddies with enough snickering material for another Blue Collar Comedy Tour. Other spectacles just as memorable, but not likely to be remembered clearly, will unfold in the tavern parking lots, including fist-fights, heaving expurgations, and acts of urgent carnal release—sometimes all involving the same two people. In a strange hybrid of highland folkways, Helen is where gemütlichkeit—the arm-linking, swaying-together fellowship of the Alps—abets the hell-raising volatility of Appalachia.
Get the Longreads Weekly Email
Success! You're on the list.
Whoops! There was an error and we couldn't process your subscription. Please reload the page and try again.