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Clay County man receives state’s highest folklife award 2003

The Vandalia Award, West Virginia’s highest folklife honor, was presented to Mack Samples of Duck on Saturday as part of the 27th annual Vandalia Gathering. The award was given to Samples, a well-known folklorist, musician and square dance caller, during a ceremony and concert in the West Virginia State Theater of the Cultural Center.

The West Virginia Division of Culture and History presents the Vandalia Award annually to a West Virginian who has made outstanding contributions to the continuation of the state’s folk heritage. The award recognizes lifetime achievement in the performance, creation or perpetuation of West Virginia traditional arts. The Vandalia Gathering, an annual three-day festival of traditional arts and folk heritage, is celebrated Memorial Day weekend at the Cultural Center and State Capitol grounds in Charleston. More than 40,000 people attend the three-day festival each year.

A native West Virginian, Samples has spent his entire life learning, collecting and sharing the traditional stories, songs, dances and folk culture of the Mountain State. He is well known in Appalachian music and literature circles and has traveled the folk festival circuit for a number of years as a singer, guitarist, fiddler and square dance caller. Samples is a regular at the Vandalia Gathering, the West Virginia State Folk Festival and the Stonewall Jackson Jubilee, both as a member of the popular Samples Brothers band and as a solo performer.

He is the author of four books set in West Virginia, including “Elk River Ghosts: Tales & Lore” (2002) and “Dust on the Fiddle” (1997). In addition, he has written a number of newspaper columns and magazine articles on a variety of subjects related to the traditional folk arts.

A retired West Virginia University Extension Service agent, Samples also worked as an administrator and teacher at Glenville State College. He was president of the West Virginia State Folk Festival for nearly 20 years and has served on the West Virginia Commission on the Arts.

Samples is the 23nd recipient of the Vandalia Award. Last year, musician Bob Kessinger of Harmony was honored.

For more information, call (304) 558-0220. The West Virginia Division of Culture and History, an agency of the West Virginia Department of Education and the Arts, brings together the state’s past, present and future through programs and services in the areas of archives and history, the arts, historic preservation and museums. Visit the Division’s website at for more information about the Vandalia Gathering and other programs of the Division. The Division of Culture and History is an Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action Employer.

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Ginny Painter
Director of Public Information
West Virginia Division of Culture and History
The Cultural Center
1900 Kanawha Boulevard, East
Charleston, WV 25305-0300
Phone (304) 558-0220
Fax (304) 558-2779