Greek, Italian, Swiss… the best celebrations of WV’s patchwork heritage

West Virginia is a true melting pot of cultures— and we celebrate them all!

From Greek and Italian to Scottish and Swiss, the cultural makeup of West Virginia is a beautiful patchwork. Several groups gather yearly to celebrate the traditional food, music and dance of their heritage.

Take a look at some of the heritage festivals that make up our cultural mosaic:

1. West Virginia Black Heritage Festival (Clarksburg)

This festival, which celebrates the African-American community, draws more than 50 vendors and nationally known entertainment. Add in soul food, crafts, gifts, games and the royal naming of the king and queen, and you have one of the best local festivals in the state.

 Italian vino at Italian Heritage Festival in WV2. Upper Ohio Valley Italian Heritage Festival (Wheeling)

With everything from wine- and sauce-making demonstrations to Italian musicians, dancing and fireworks, the Upper Ohio Valley Italian Heritage Festival is one of the state’s largest Italian festivals.

 3. Fasnacht (Helvetia)

The Swiss village of Helvetia celebrates a number of cultural festivals, but the most famous is Fasnacht on the last Saturday before Lent. Fasnacht has roots in the Swiss Winterfest. In addition to square dancing, costumes, large masks and delicious Swiss food, you can join in on the burning of Old Man Winter just before spring arrives.

Greek Festival dancers, WV

4. Greek Festival (Huntington)

This annual festival is a weekend full of food, music and dancing in traditional dress— all with a little taste of Greece. One highlight? The tons of Greek pastries available: almond biscotti, baklava, flogeres (walnuts, butter and spices baked in layers of phyllo topped with chocolate and syrup), pecan blossoms and kataifi (shredded phyllo with nuts and syrup.)

5. Serb Fest Picnic (Weirton)

This event serves up Serbian food, drink and entertainment at the Serbian Picnic Grounds in Weirton. The barbecue building features dozens of lambs and hundreds of chickens spinning over open fires, while the kitchen whips up traditional Serbian food like sarma (tender cabbage leaves stuffed with a ground meat mixture and simmered in a special tomato sauce) and gibanica (a rich, cheese-filled pastry.) For an added bonus, try the famous slivovitsa, a Serbian plum brandy!

Italian pizza and heritage, West Virginia

6. West Virginia Italian Heritage Festival (Clarksburg)

North Central West Virginia has a rich Italian heritage from the Italians who traveled here to work in the coal mines. Now, Clarksburg celebrates that culture through wine, food, music and fun during a 3-day event that brings in thousands of visitors. Don’t forget to snag a homemade pepperoni roll!

7. Mahrajan – Lebanese Festival (Wheeling)

Stuffed grape leaves? Falafel? Hummus? You can find it all and more at Wheeling’s annual Mahrajan, which means “festival” in Lebanese. The Mahrajan has been sharing the rich culture of Lebanese heritage for more than 80 years, with entertainment like live Middle-Eastern music and professional belly dancers.

Greek dancers at Greek Heritage Festival, WV

8. Weirton Greek Festival (Weirton)

Hundreds of volunteers gather to make thousands of gyros, pieces of baklava and Greek twist cookies at the Weirton Greek Festival. In addition to the food, the festival features Greek music, dancers and guided tours of the historic, nearly 70-year-old All Saints Church.

9. The North Central West Virginia Scottish Festival & Celtic Gathering (Bridgeport)

This festival celebrates all things Scottish— including individual clans, tartans, coats of arms and bagpipes. West Virginians who trace their Scottish roots back for many years share their love for the culture through song, dance and history lessons for festival-goers.

Which festival is your favorite?

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This post was last updated on March 1, 2022