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State’s annual Vandalia Gathering to be held May 23-25 in Charleston
(Photos below)


On Memorial Day weekend, May 23-25, the Cultural Center and State Capitol grounds will be the site of the 27th Vandalia Gathering—the state’s annual celebration of the traditional arts, music, dance, stories, crafts and food of West Virginia. The free festival’s unique blend of ethnic and cultural heritage combines an atmosphere as comfortable as a family reunion with the excitement of a state fair.

The Vandalia Gathering creates new memories each year for the thousands of visitors who flock from across the Mountain State and around the country to celebrate traditions passed from generation to generation. The festival pays tribute to West Virginia’s mountain culture and ethnic heritage by showcasing a variety of craftspeople and performers.

For those who love the sounds of traditional music or would like to be introduced to it, Vandalia Gathering can fit the bill. Concerts and contests fill the weekend, and 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.

During the festival, West Virginia craftspeople will be demonstrating and selling their creations. Potters, quilters, woodworkers and a host of other gifted artisans round out the Craft Circle. Salsa, jelly, salad dressings, gourmet coffee and tea, and a variety of other food products also will be available.

Vandalia food booths will feature a unique sampling of traditional and ethnic foods, including such favorites as hot dogs, roasted corn, hamburgers, funnel cakes, rib sandwiches, Greek and Italian specialties, and German sausages. The festival sales tent will offer Vandalia Gathering T-shirts, cups, seat cushions, pins and other souvenirs, as well as compact discs and cassettes from West Virginia’s finest traditional musicians.

The 2003 Vandalia Gathering gets under way at 7 p.m. on Friday, May 23, in the West Virginia State Theater of the Cultural Center with the Vandalia Sampler concert featuring some of the festival’s favorite performers. Activities on Saturday and Sunday include old-time fiddle, banjo and lap dulcimer competitions, as well as the popular Liars Contest (honest!). A second contest stage includes competitions in flat pick guitar, mandolin and bluegrass banjo. Traditional dance offerings range from demonstrations of ethnic and square dancing in the Great Hall of the Cultural Center to an outdoor flat foot dancing stage where spectators are encouraged to jump in and kick up their heels. The Old-Time for Young-Uns area on Saturday and Sunday features old-fashioned hands-on fun and games for all ages. The festival wraps up Sunday with an awards ceremony and concert in the State Theater beginning at 5 p.m.

Vandalia Gathering is a program of the West Virginia Division of Culture and History. Visit the Division’s web site at for more information or a complete schedule of Vandalia Gathering events. Call (304) 558-0162. Vandalia Gathering contests are open to West Virginia residents only.

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 Division 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


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All photographs by Michael Keller, West Virginia Division of Culture and History. Please credit.

Fiddler Lester McCumbers helped kick off the 2002 Vandalia Gathering during the Vandalia Sampler concert Friday evening.

Crafter making flower art
2002 Vandalia Gathering craftsperson Sheila Wheeler of 30 Acre Wood in Mount Alto demonstrates her technique for pressing flowers.

Two kids with music instruments
The Vandalia Gathering “Old-Time for Young’Uns” area offers traditional activities for all ages.

Brooks Smith at Booker T. Washington memorial
Banjo player Brooks Smith of Dunbar received the state’s highest folklife honor, the Vandalia Award, at the 2000 Vandalia Gathering.

Robin Kessinger goofing off
Robin Kessinger of St. Albans psyches himself up for the 2002 Vandalia Gathering flat pick guitar contest.

Jake Krak and Andrew Dunlap jamming
2002 Vandalia Gathering fiddler champion Jake Krack of Orma jams with banjo player Andrew Dunlap of St. Albans.