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Next week’s family-style Vandalia Gathering celebrates the traditional arts

The 30th annual Vandalia Gathering is a FREE celebration of the traditional arts, music, dance, stories, crafts and food of West Virginia. The Cultural Center and State Capitol Complex grounds will play host to this expanding family-style gathering on Memorial Day Weekend, May 26-28, 2006. The unique blending of ethnic and cultural heritage combines an atmosphere as comfortable as a family reunion with the excitement of a state fair.

The statewide folk festival, named for the proposed 14th colony, creates new memories for the thousands of visitors who flock from across the Mountain State and the entire country to celebrate traditions passed from generation to generation. In addition to offering a sampling of West Virginia’s traditional mountain culture by showcasing craftspeople and performers, the Vandalia Gathering pays tribute to the state’s ethnic heritage through a variety of exhibitions and programs.

The 2006 Vandalia Gathering gets under way at 7 p.m. on Friday, May 26, with the Vandalia Sampler concert featuring some of the state’s favorite performers in the Norman L. Fagan West Virginia State Theater of the Cultural Center.

This year for the first time, there will be youth categories in the fiddle and lap dulcimer contests. Music contests on Saturday include fiddle, bluegrass banjo and mandolin. Banjo, lap dulcimer and flat-pick guitar, as well as the Liars Contest (honest!) comprise the Sunday competitions. Contests are open to West Virginia residents only, and cash prizes are awarded at the conclusion of the contest instead of during the evening concerts. Registration for the music contests is from 11 a.m. to noon both days. Liars contest registration is Sunday at noon.

Singing, concerts and dancing ranging from ethnic square dancing in the Great Hall of the Cultural Center will take place both days from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. The outdoor flatfoot and clogging dance stage will have bands and callers on hand from noon to 5 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. Spectators are encouraged to jump in and kick up their heels. The popular Old-Time for Young-Uns area features traditional hands-on fun and games for all ages from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday and noon to 5 p.m. on Sunday. Musicians from the Allegheny Echoes summer workshops will have instruments available for children to play and the WVU/Jackson’s Mill Center for Lifelong Learning and State 4-H Camp will have its farm wagon and docents dressed in 1800s-style clothing demonstrating candle making, grinding corn, woodworking, blacksmithing and more.

Coal Camp Blues and Coalfield Struggles, a film by Jim McGee which documents the music of Carl Rutherford and the development of Big Creek People in Action (BCPIA), will be shown in the Cultural Center on Saturday at noon and Sunday at 3:30 p.m. Rutherford, who died earlier this year, was a coal miner and singer/songwriter who wrote about the work environment in the mines while commenting on the economic and social issues of a coal camp. BCPIA is a non-profit organization founded by citizens of McDowell County in 1990 that serves the community through a variety of empowerment programs.

For those who love the sounds of traditional music or would like to be introduced to it–Vandalia Gathering can fill the bill. Impromptu jam sessions spring up all over the grounds. At any moment, a shade tree becomes the site of a lively performance as strolling musicians stop to join in on a favorite old tune. This year, there also will be a jam tent on the plaza deck of the Cultural Center which will be manned by guest musicians who will play and invite the public to join them.

Gospel singing is featured in the State Theater at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday. A workshop for novices and accomplished singers alike fills the theater with heavenly sounds. A Master’s Showcase on the Blues featuring Nat Reese of Princeton will be presented on Saturday at 2 p.m. in the Cultural Center. In the Great Hall and the Art Gallery, the Quilts and Wall Hangings 2006 exhibition decorates the white marble walls in brilliant color and visual splendor with exquisite quilts representing the talents of West Virginia quiltmakers.

More than 45 craftspeople will be demonstrating and selling their creations in the craft circle on the State Capitol Grounds. Potters, quilters, woodworkers, jewelers, instrument makers and a host of others round out the circle. Salsa, honey and other food products also will be available. The food booths and craft circle are open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. both days.

The festival sales booth will offer Vandalia Gathering t-shirts, hats, cups, seat cushions, pins and other memorabilia as well as compact discs and cassettes. Vandalia Gathering also features a unique sampling of traditional and ethnic foods. Try such favorites as roasted corn, hot dogs, hamburgers, beef BBQs, rib sandwiches, Greek specialties, German sausage sandwiches, funnel cakes, homemade cobblers, strawberry shortcake and much more.

A Saturday night concert in the State Theater will begin at 6:30 p.m. with an awards presentation for quilt and wall hanging winners and presentation of the Vandalia Award, the state’s highest folklife honor. On Sunday, Ethel Caffie-Austin will close the festival with a gospel concert at 6 p.m.

The Vandalia Gathering is a program of the West Virginia Division of Culture and History. For more information about the festival, including a complete schedule of activities, visit the Division’s website at www.wvculture.org/vandalia/vansched.html, or call (304) 558-0162.

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. The Cultural Center is West Virginia’s official showcase for the arts. Visit the Division’s website at www.wvculture.org for more information about programs of the Division. The Division of Culture and History is an Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action Employer.

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MEDIA NOTE: Publicity photos may be downloaded from the Division’s website at www.wvculture.org/vandalia/press.html.