On Memorial Day weekend, May 23-25, the Cultural Center and State Capitol grounds will be the site of the 32nd 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 musical 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 tune. A special jam tent will be set up on the grounds that will be manned with musicians playing on Saturday from 11 a.m. - 4 p.m. and on Sunday from 11 a.m. - 5:30 p.m. The public is invited to join in and participate.
During the festival, 47 West Virginia craftspeople will be demonstrating and selling their creations. Visitors can shop for wind chimes, pottery, wall hangings, wood products, stained, fused and pressed glass, musical instruments, jewelry, silk scarves, candles, leather goods, baskets and a host of other items in the Craft Circle. Salsa, jellies, salad dressings, gourmet coffee and tea, roasted nuts, chili and dip mixes and a variety of other food products also will be available. In addition, there will be vendors selling plants native to West Virginia.
Vandalia food booths will feature a unique sampling of traditional and ethnic foods, including such favorites as hot dogs, roasted corn, hamburgers, hot bologna sandwiches, funnel cakes, rib sandwiches, strawberry shortcake, cobblers, Greek and Italian specialties and German sausages. The festival sales tent will offer Vandalia Gathering T-shirts, caps, and other souvenirs, as well as compact discs and cassettes from West Virginia’s finest traditional musicians.
The 2008 Vandalia Gathering gets under way at 7 p.m. on Friday, May 23, in the Norman L. Fagan 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, a gospel workshop, as well as the popular Liars Contest (honest!). A second contest stage will hold 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 a gospel concert in the theater at 6:30 p.m.
Visitors also can see the annual Quilts and Wall Hangings exhibition on display in the Great Hall and Art Gallery of the Cultural Center. The crowd-pleasing annual juried exhibition features exquisite quilts and wall hangings representing the talents of West Virginia quiltmakers. Quilts and Wall Hangings 2008 will be on display from May 19 - Sept. 2.
This year’s festival will present two new activities. There will be a “Cakes, Pies and Preserves” contest on Saturday at 1 p.m., followed by a “Cake Walk” at 4 p.m. “Down Home Visit” will give festival goers an opportunity to visit with past Vandalia Award winners in an intimate setting. Hosted by musicians John Lilly and Gerry Milnes, “Down Home Visit” will take place on Saturday from 11 a.m. - 5:30 p.m. and Sunday from 11 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.
Vandalia Gathering is a program of the West Virginia Division of Culture and History. The Cultural Center is located in Charleston. Take exit 99/Greenbrier Street off I-64/77. Visit the Division’s website at www.wvculture.org for more information or a complete schedule of Vandalia Gathering events. Call (304) 558-0220. 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. 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.
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