The 33rd annual 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 expanding family-style gathering on Memorial Day weekend, May 22-24, 2009. 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 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 2009 Vandalia Gathering gets under way at 7 p.m., on Friday, May 22, with the Vandalia Sampler concert featuring some of the state’s favorite musicians in the Norman L. Fagan West Virginia State Theater of the Culture Center. Performers include Glenville State College Bluegrass Band, Jake Krack, John Lilly, Joe Dobbs, Justin Wood, Born Old, David O’Dell, Roger Bryant, Jenny Allinder, Gerry Milnes, and the Bing Brothers. In addition, the evening’s program will include a tribute to William Virgil “Fiddlin’ Shorty” Ross, a senior master old-time musician from Clendenin, who died earlier this 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 fruit cobbler and pound cake contest. Entries must be made from scratch and submitted in a nine-inch disposable pan. The main ingredient for the cobbler is fresh, home-canned or frozen fruit (no store-canned fruit) and creativity is encouraged. The pound cakes can be any flavor. The contest will take place on the plaza deck at 1 p.m. 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. The cobblers and pound cakes will be sliced following the contest and given as prizes in the new “Cake/Cobbler Walk” which will take place Saturday in the Great Hall starting at 4 p.m. Everyone is welcome to participate.
Singing, concerts and dancing ranging from ethnic to traditional square dancing in the Great Hall of the Culture 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. 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 200th birthday, Capitol tour guides Grace Nida and Mary Ann Long will lead kids in building the Lincoln log cabin out of popsicle sticks. In addition, kids can color in coloring books, make tissue paper flowers and enjoy assorted other activities. The West Virginia Storytellers Guild will be at the Old-Time-for-Young-’Uns booth on Saturday, and several of West Virginia’s finest youth musicians will perform in concert there on Sunday with Tessa Dillon playing at 12:15 p.m.; Walter King at 1 p.m.; Annie Fowler at 1:45 p.m.; Eric Campbell at 2:30 p.m.; and Andrew Kidd at 4 p.m.
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 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. 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 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 and a question and answer session.
The theater will showcase the West Virginia Storytellers Guild on Saturday beginning at 12:30 p.m., as well as four groups of musicians in concert. On Sunday in the theater, visitors 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 - 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.
In the Great Hall, the Quilts and Wall Hangings 2009 exhibition decorates the white marble walls in brilliant color and visual splendor with exquisite quilts representing the talents of West Virginia quiltmakers. Women of Design: Embassies, Mansions and Stately Homes–Pat Bibbee and Vivien Woofter, featuring the work of two of West Virginia’s premier interior designers, is on display in the Balcony Gallery, as well as the West Virginia’s First Ladies doll exhibit in its south wing, and Treasures of West Virginia’s Governors in its north wing. West Virginia’s Gift to the World: Marble King–The World’s Finest Marbles is featured in the Lobby Gallery with games, such as the Wizard of Oz Family Board Game and a colorful mural of 47,232 marbles depicting the Marble King logo.
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 Everett Lilly, a pioneer of early country music radio and member of the first professional bluegrass band to perform in Japan, from Raleigh County. Performers include Lilly and the Lilly Mountaineers, Lester McCumbers, Frank George, Noah Lepp, Nat Reese, Kessinger Family, John Morris, Dwight Diller, Ginny Hawker and Tracy Schwarz, and the Samples Brothers Band. On Sunday, the finale Gospel concert will feature Angie Richardson, Happy Valley Boys, Bare Bones, United Gospel Singers 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 Web site 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 Culture Center in the State Capitol Complex in Charleston, which also houses the state archives and state museum. The Culture 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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