The 32nd 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 23-25, 2008. 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 2008 Vandalia Gathering gets under way at 7 p.m., on Friday, May 23, 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 Front Page, The Ginsangers, Robin Kessinger, Chance McCoy, Bob Shank, Bil Lepp, Noah Lepp, Elaine Purky, Pete Kosky, Gerry Milnes and the Rachel Eddy Band. In addition, the evening’s program will include a tribute to Brooks Smith, a senior old-time banjo winner, master musician and previous Vandalia Award winner, who died last year.
As in years past, there will be special youth categories 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 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 from noon to 1 p.m..
A new competition has been added on Saturday this year: a cake and pie contest. Entries must be made from scratch and submitted on a nine-inch disposable plate or bundt pan. The main ingredient in pies and cakes must be fresh or frozen apples (no canned fruit) but can include other fruits and ingredients, and creativity is encouraged. Cakes and pies that must be refrigerated are not eligible. The contest will take place on the plaza deck. Registration is from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. 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-old and under in both categories. The cakes and pies will be sliced following the contest and given as prizes in the new “Cake Walk” which will take place Saturday in the Great Hall starting at 4 p.m. Everyone is welcome to participate.
Another new addition to the festival this year is the “Down Home Visit,” which will give festival goers an opportunity to meet and talk with past Vandalia Award winners in an intimate setting. Hosted by musicians John Lilly and Gerry Milnes, “Down Home Visit” will take place in the Art Gallery of the Cultural Center on Saturday from 11 a.m. - 5:30 p.m. and Sunday from 11 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. On Saturday, visitors can enjoy one-hour sessions with Bonnie Collins at 11 a.m.; Jane and Frank George at 12:30 p.m.; Nat Reese at 2 p.m.; Rush and Ruby Butcher at 3:30 p.m.; and Lester McCumbers at 4:30 p.m. Sunday’s schedule includes Mack Samples at 11 a.m.; Ethel Caffie-Austin at 12:30 p.m.; Patty Looman at 2 p.m., and this year’s winner, Lou Maiuri at 3:30 p.m.
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 4 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. In celebration of Abraham Lincoln’s upcoming 200th birthday, Capitol tour guides Grace Nida and Mary Ann Long will lead kids in Lincoln activities such as building the Lincoln log cabin out of popsicle sticks, Victorian silhouettes and coloring books to name a few. In addition, kids can meet the 16th president and his wife, Mary Todd Lincoln, from noon - 3 p.m. on Saturday, portrayed by members of the Association of Lincoln Presenters Larry and Mary Elliott of Louisville, Ky.
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. to 3:45 p.m. on Saturday and 11 a.m. - 5:15 p.m. Sunday.
Three Rivers Avian Center from Brooks, W.Va. also will be demonstrating at the Old-Time for Young-Uns area on Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. - 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 and a question and answer session. The display will include a golden eagle, peregrine falcon, an owl and more.
Gospel singing is featured in the theater from 3:30 - 5 p.m. on Sunday. The workshop, led by Gospel great Ethel Caffie-Austin, is for novices and accomplished singers alike and fills the theater with heavenly sounds. The theater will also feature five groups of 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 2008 exhibition decorates the white marble walls in brilliant color and visual splendor with exquisite quilts representing the talents of West Virginia quiltmakers. Fenton Art Glass: West Virginia’s Gift to the World featuring work from the West Virginia State Museum Collection and the Fenton Art Glass Collection as well as some more contemporary pieces, is on display in the Lobby Gallery and the north wing of the Balcony Gallery. The Greenbrier Resort’s artist-in-residence, William Wolk, has a series of dance paintings in the Balcony, and the south wing of the Balcony Gallery has the West Virginia’s First Ladies doll exhibit.
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 and tapes by many of the gathering’s musicians. 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 Lou Maiuri, a master of traditional Appalachian-style dancing, a caller, instructor, judge and organizer from Summersville. Performers include Maiuri and the Appalachian Cloggers with the band Born Old, Patty Looman, Elmer Rich, Virgil Ross, Bill Hairston, Mack and Grayson Samples, Bonnie Collins, Nat Reese, Frank George, Lester McCumbers and the Critton Hollow String Band. On Sunday, the finale concert will feature Caffie-Austin and her gospel workshop participants 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 -