CHARLESTON, W.Va. — On Memorial Day weekend, May 25-27, the Culture Center and State Capitol grounds will set the stage for the 42nd annual 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 2018 Vandalia Gathering kicks off at 6 p.m. Friday, May 25, in the State Theater with an awards ceremony for quilt and wall-hanging winners. A concert will follow the awards ceremony and feature Roger Bryant, former Vandalia Award winner, as emcee with performers Black Mountain Bluegrass Boys, Jenny Allinder with Jim Mullins, Bare Bones, Long Point String Band and The Luke Shamblin Band with Buddy Griffin, Joe Vance and Swanagan Ray.
A Saturday evening concert will begin with a pre-show event in the Great Hall of the Culture Center at 5:30 p.m. featuring the Appalachian Country Cloggers with Lou Maiuri. The evening performance starts at 6 p.m. in the State Theater and will feature the presentation of the Vandalia Award, the state’s highest folklife honor. The following concert will be a memorial tribute to the late Frank and Jane George, both former Vandalia Award winners; Alan Freeman, the winningest Vandalia dulcimer player; and Harold Hayslett, an award-winning instrument maker, all who passed away within the last year. Hosted by Bill Hairston, performers will include the Modock Rounders, David O’Dell and Pete Kosky, John Morris, Poteen, Bobby Taylor with Kanawha Tradition, Nick Freeman and Jimmy Costa.
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 fits 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.
Activities on Saturday and Sunday include old-time fiddle, old-time banjo, lap dulcimer, mandolin, flat-pick guitar and bluegrass banjo competitions. The fiddle and guitar competitions have a youth category for musicians 15 years of age or younger. Traditional dance offerings range from demonstrations of ethnic and square dancing in the Great Hall of the Culture 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 will have craft activities, including wheat weaving, mixed media painting, weaving with Jane Gilchrist, storytelling and Clay Middle School’s Monday Night Players.
In addition, there will be a traditional pound cake and favorite family bar cookie contest on Saturday followed by a “Cake Walk” later in the afternoon. On Sunday, the popular Liars Contest will take place in the theater, and Angie Richardson will present a Gospel Sing.
During the festival, more than 40 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. Vandalia food booths will feature a unique sampling of traditional and ethnic foods, including such favorites as hot dogs, roasted corn, pepperoni rolls, sausage hero sandwiches, tacos in a bag, pinto beans and cornbread, ramps, potatoes and eggs, strawberry shortcake, funnel cakes and cobblers. The festival sales tent will offer Vandalia Gathering t-shirts, caps and other souvenirs, as well as music from West Virginia’s finest traditional musicians.
Visitors also can see the annual Quilts and Wall Hangings Exhibition on display in the Great Hall of the Culture Center. The crowd-pleasing annual juried exhibition features exquisite quilts and wall hangings representing the talents of West Virginia quiltmakers. Quilts and Wall Hangings 2018 will be on display from May 25 – Sept. 7.
Vandalia Gathering is a program of the West Virginia Division of Culture and History. The Culture Center is located at the State Capitol Complex in Charleston.
For more information, contact Andrea Nelson, public information specialist for the division, at (304) 558-0220. Visit the division’s website at www.wvculture.org for a complete schedule of Vandalia Gathering events. Vandalia Gathering contests are open to West Virginia residents only.