The 31st 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 25-27, 2007. 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 2007 Vandalia Gathering gets under way at 7 p.m., on Friday, May 25, with the Vandalia Sampler concert featuring some of the state’s favorite musicians in the Norman L. Fagan West Virginia State Theater of the Cultural Center. Performers include Jim and Valerie Gabeheart, Alan Freeman, Johnny Staats and Robert Shafer, United Gospel Singers, John Morris, Tim Bing, Meredith Pheasant, Robin Kessinger, Ginny Hawker and Tracy Schwarz, and the Black Mountain Bluegrass Boys.
This year for the first time, there will be a youth category in the flat-pick guitar contest. Youth awards also will continue 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 winners are announced 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 to traditional square dancing in the Great Hall of the Cultural Center will take place on Saturday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and noon to 5 p.m. on Sunday. 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, shelling and grinding corn, woodworking, blacksmithing, domestic activities, folk toys and games, and more. Capitol tour guide Grace Nida will lead kids in making corn husk dolls, button whizzers and pouches.
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. 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 from 11 a.m. - 4 p.m. on Saturday and noon - 5 p.m. Sunday.
Building a Cello with Harold, a film by award-winning photographer and filmmaker Bob Gates of Charleston, will be shown in the Cultural Center on Saturday at noon and Sunday at 3:30 p.m. This feature-length video features Harold Hayslett, a retired pipefitter and master builder of violins and cellos, and documents from start to finish, the entire process of his construction of a cello. Hayslett begins by searching his rural West Virginia forests for the rare curly Maple tree, his preferred source of wood. As the instrument slowly takes shape in his workshop, viewers witness Hayslett’s Appalachian inventiveness and craftsmanship and learn some of the knowledge of stringed instruments that this award-winning member of the Violin Society of America possesses. The film ends with musician Bob Webb playing the new cello and viewers can hear comparisons between Hayslett’s instrument and other world-class instruments at the Library of Congress including two Stradivarious violins. Gates made the 105-minute color film in 2000.
Three Rivers Avian Center from Brooks, W.Va. also will be demonstrating on Saturday from 11 a.m. - 5 p.m. and Sunday from noon - 5 p.m. The center is a West Virginia animal shelter for injured and endangered wild birds, raptor rehabilitation, and 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 daily, the work the center does to return threatened wild birds to their native habitats, a question and answer session, and a “touch” feather board.
Gospel singing is featured in the State Theater at 3:30 - 5 p.m. on Saturday. A workshop for novices and accomplished singers alike fills the theater with heavenly sounds. The theater will also feature three musicians in concert on Saturday. On Sunday in the theater, visitors can hear some of West Virginia’s best storytellers tell their tales until the Liars Contest begins at 1 p.m.
In the Great Hall and the Art Gallery, the Quilts and Wall Hangings 2007 exhibition decorates the white marble walls in brilliant color and visual splendor with exquisite quilts representing the talents of West Virginia quiltmakers. Visitors also can see Blenko: West Virginia’s Gift to the World!, featuring work from the West Virginia State Museum Collection and the Huntington Museum of Art’s Collection as well as some more contemporary pieces.
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. Vendors offering plants native to West Virginia also will be available. The food booths and craft circle are open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.
The festival sales booth will offer Vandalia Gathering t-shirts, hats, cups, and other memorabilia as well as compact discs. Vandalia Gathering also features a unique sampling of traditional and ethnic foods. 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.
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 to Patty Looman, a hammered dulcimer player from Morgantown. Performers include Looman, Ethel Caffie-Austin, Karl Smakula, the Samples Brothers, Phyllis Marks, Frank George, Lester McCumbers, Dwight Diller, Nat Reese, Jim Costa and Gandydancer. On Sunday, the finale concert will feature the Happy Valley Boys, Soup Kitchen and Angie Richardson at 6:30 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. Its administrative offices are located at the Cultural Center in the State Capitol Complex in Charleston, which also houses the state archives and state museum. The Cultural Center is West Virginia’s official showcase for the arts. The agency also operates a network of museums and historic sites across the state. For more information about the Division’s programs, visit www.wvculture.org. The Division of Culture and History is an Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action Employer.
- 30 -
MEDIA NOTE: Publicity photos may be downloaded from the Division’s website at www.wvculture.org/vandalia/press.html.