May 11, 2011
The 35th Anniversary Vandalia Gathering is a celebration of the traditional arts, music, dance, stories, crafts and food of West Virginia. The Culture Center and State Capitol Complex grounds will play host to this family-style gathering on Memorial Day weekend, May 27-29, 2011. 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 three-day event is free, and all are welcome to join in the festivities.
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 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 exhibitions and programs.
The 2011 Vandalia Gathering gets under way at 7 p.m. Friday, May 27, with an awards presentation for quilt and wall-hanging winners and presentation of the Vandalia Award, the state’s highest folklife honor. A “Passing It Down” concert featuring family members performing together follows the awards ceremony with some of the state’s favorite musicians and storytellers in the Norman L. Fagan West Virginia State Theater of the Culture Center. Performers include Glenville State Bluegrass Band; Gerry and Jesse Milnes; Ginny Hawker and Heidi Hass; Ron and Rory Mullennex; Dwight and Caleb Diller; Robin Kessinger and Joe Adkins; Bil, Noah and Ellie Lepp; and the Bing Brothers Band. As in years past, there will be special youth categories (15 years and younger) in the flat pick guitar, fiddle and lap dulcimer contests. Music contests on Saturday include old-time fiddle, bluegrass banjo and mandolin. The old-time banjo, lap dulcimer and flat-pick guitar, as well as the Liars Contest (honest!) comprise the Sunday contests. Contests are open to West Virginia residents only, and winners are announced at the conclusion of the contest. Registration for the music contests is from 11 a.m. to noon both days. Liars contest registration from noon to 1 p.m. Sunday.
There also will be competitions for best pound cake and best apple pie on Saturday. Registration for the contests is from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., and the contests will take place at 1 p.m. on the Plaza Deck of the Culture Center. The competition is open to West Virginia residents only. Awards will be made for first, second and third place as well as a youth award for children 15 years and younger in the pound cake and apple pie categories. Creativity is encouraged as the competition is not limited to traditional cooking techniques. The pound cakes and apple pies will become the property of the Division and be given as prizes in the “Cake/Apple Pie Walk,” which will take place at 3:30 p.m. Saturday in the Great Hall of the Culture Center. Everyone is welcome to participate.
Entries must be made from scratch; prepared mixes are not allowed. Judges will disqualify previously published recipes, such as those published in cookbooks, magazines, on food websites and winners in other cooking contests, unless the recipe features significant changes. All recipes must be submitted on a three-inch by five-inch index card. The pies must be made with fresh or frozen apples or home-canned fruit, and the filling must be 60 percent apples. The pound cakes and apple pies must be submitted in a disposable loaf pan.
Singing, concerts and dancing ranging from ethnic to traditional square dancing in the Great Hall of the Culture Center will take place from noon to 3:30 p.m. Saturday followed immediately by the “Cake Walk,” and from noon - 3:30 p.m. Sunday. The outdoor flatfoot and clogging dance stage will have bands and callers on hand from noon to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Spectators are encouraged to jump in and kick up their heels.
The popular outdoor Old-Time-for-Young-’Uns area features traditional hands-on fun and games for all ages from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday. 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, shelling and grinding corn, woodworking, blacksmithing, domestic activities, folk toys and games, and more. Three Rivers Avian Center from Brooks, W.Va., also will demonstrate on both days. The center is a West Virginia animal shelter for injured and endangered wild birds that rehabilitates raptors and offers raptor environmental education programs. The presentation will include information about habitat and the role of raptors in the ecosystem, why there are laws protecting them and other wild birds, a discussion of the most common hazards they face, the work the center does to return threatened wild birds to their native habitats and a question-and-answer session.
Children can enjoy arts and craft activities, such as making cornhusk dolls and buzz saws, heritage art projects and playing on a wooden toy game table. The West Virginia Storytellers Guild will be at the Young-’Uns booth on Saturday.
For those who love the sounds of traditional music or would like to be introduced to it, Vandalia Gathering offers plenty of opportunities as 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. There will be a jam tent on the Plaza Deck of the Culture Center, which will be manned by guest musicians who will play and invite the public to join them from 11 a.m. to 3:45 p.m. Saturday and from 11:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday.
The Norman L. Fagan West Virginia State Theater will showcase the West Virginia Storytellers Guild beginning at 12:30 p.m. as well as five groups of musicians in concert from 1:45 to 5 p.m. Saturday. On Sunday, visitors in the theater can hear some of West Virginia’s best storytellers tell their tales beginning at noon, until the Liars Contest begins at 1 p.m. Gospel singing also is featured in the theater from 3:30 to
5 p.m. Sunday. The gospel workshop led by West Virginia’s first lady of gospel, Ethel Caffie-Austin, is for novices and accomplished singers alike and fills the theater with heavenly sounds.
A Saturday night 35th anniversary concert in the State Theater will begin at 6:30 p.m. with a 10-minute video clip of the first few Vandalia Gatherings, Frank George, Nat Reese, Norman L. Fagan, first commissioner discussing the origins of the festival and a performance by David Morris.
In the Great Hall, the Quilts and Wall Hangings 2011 exhibition decorates the white marble walls in brilliant color and visual splendor with exquisite quilts representing the talents of West Virginia quiltmakers. Also on display in the Lobby Gallery is Fiesta: 75th Anniversary, 1936 - 2011, featuring the “Rainbow of Color,” consisting of two sizes of plates in an explosion of the vivid hues of Fiestaware. West Virginia Juried Exhibition 2009 Purchase Awards showcasing 10 contemporary pieces of art is featured in the Balcony Gallery along with the West Virginia’s First Ladies doll exhibit in its south wing, and Treasures of West Virginia’s Governors in its north wing.
More than 40 craftspeople will demonstrate and sell their creations on the walkway between the Culture Center and Governor’s Mansion from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Potters, quilters, woodworkers, jewelers, instrument makers and stained glass artists, as well as photographers, weavers, fabric artists, and a host of others round out the circle. Salsa, honey and other food will be available, along with vendors offering plants native to West Virginia and other garden treasures.
The Vandalia Gathering features a unique sampling of traditional and ethnic foods. The food booths will be open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Try such favorites as roasted corn, hot dogs, hamburgers, beef BBQs, pulled pork sandwiches, Greek specialties, German sausage sandwiches, funnel cakes, homemade cobblers, strawberry shortcake and much more.
The festival will wrap up on Sunday with a finale concert showcasing the talents of the Happy Valley Boys, Bare Bones and Ethel Caffie-Austin.
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 and access the link for events, or call Caryn Gresham, deputy commissioner of the Division, at (304) 558-0220.
The West Virginia Division of Culture and History is an agency within the West Virginia Department of Education and the Arts with Kay Goodwin, Cabinet Secretary. The Division, led by Commissioner Randall Reid-Smith, brings together the past, present and future through programs and services focusing on archives and history, arts, historic preservation and museums. For more information about the Division’s programs, events and sites, visit www.wvculture.org. The Division of Culture and History is an Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action Employer.