For 45 years or so, people have been asking the same question on the streets of Helen. The question is, "How did this town happen?" They are just a few of the thousands of people that flock to see the town that miraculously transformed into an alpine village. The transformation began without fanfare, publicity, without meetings, without Federal or State funding, or any fund raisers at all. Quite simply the alpine village idea began when several local businessmen gathered at a riverside restaurant, looked out a window and saw their bleak hometown with its dull, dreary row of block structures like an old western town done in cement and saw the town with fresh eyes. It was late in 1968 when one businessman approached an artist, John Kollock, who has a home in the neighboring town of Clarksville. John was asked if he had any suggestions for painting or decorating the buildings. When Mr. Kollock came to look, he already had an idea. It was eighteen years old nestled in the back of his mind from his days in the army when he was stationed in Bavaria. While there, John had made many sketches of Alpine villages and was fascinated with the similarity of the landscape to the North Georgia Mountains. The difference was in the trim, detail and colors of the buildings. Something about those buildings transmitted an excitement to walk among them and made everyday events seem like a vacation. "How great," he thought, "if there could be some spot in our mountains that could reflect this image for the vacationer." Kollock photographed the whole business section of Helen and within a week presented a series of water color sketches of what the face of Helen would look like in Alpine style. The businessmen eagerly accepted the sketches and Jim Wilkins, President of Orbit Manufacturing Co., said "Let's do it. You can do my building first." A week later the townsmen and local carpenters began turning ideas into reality. That was in January of 1969. The work continues to date. Once the remodeling was begun, everyone pitched in on a beautification program to make Helen a true Cinderella town. Each shop owner paid for his own work. The city paid for the town street lights and planters. So this is the story of Helen, the miracle of a small community that is today forging ahead with planned and controlled expansion. It all happened quietly, but word spread. Helen is helped by that good word passed along by those who have come and will come again.