CHARLESTON, W.Va. – The Vandalia Award, West Virginia’s highest folklife honor, will be presented to folklorist, filmmaker, author and musician Gerald Milnes of Elkins, Randolph County, on Friday, May 24, at the 37th Annual Vandalia Gathering. Milnes will receive the award during a 7 p.m. ceremony and concert in the Norman L. Fagan West Virginia State Theater in the Culture Center, State Capitol Complex, Charleston. He will perform during the concert.

A native of Pennsylvania, Milnes has made his home in Webster and Randolph counties since 1975.  He has spent the past 35 years researching, documenting, writing about, and teaching West Virginia traditional arts and music. Topics have included farming and foraging, architecture, storytelling, folklore, weaving and fabric art, dance and song.

Milnes, who served as Folk Art Coordinator for the Augusta Heritage Center of Davis & Elkins College in Elkins, recently retired after 25 years. During that time, he amassed more than 2,000 hours of film, video, and audio recordings, documenting the talents and folk practices of native West Virginians.

In documenting Appalachian culture, Milnes has produced 20 audio recordings of West Virginia traditional music on the Augusta Heritage label, including two recordings chosen by the American Folklife Center, Library of Congress, for their “Selected List” of American Folk Music Recordings. A new and timely release is Folk Music & Lore of the Civil War, a collection of field recordings that makes it possible to hear songs, tunes and stories of that conflict as they likely would have sounded 150 years ago.

Milnes has published several books, including Play of a Fiddle: Traditional Music, Dance, and Folklore inWest Virginia, (University Press of Kentucky, 1999); Passing it On: An Introduction to the Folk Art and Folk Life of West Virginia (Augusta Heritage Center, 1994); Granny Will Your Dog Bite and Other Mountain Rhymes (Alfred Knopf, 1990); and Signs, Cures and Witchery: German Appalachian Folklore (University of Tennessee Press, 2007).

In addition, Milnes has earned a reputation as a documentary filmmaker, being honored as West Virginia Filmmaker of the Year in 2006. In 2009, Milnes received an honorary doctor of fine arts degree from Davis & Elkins College.

 An accomplished musician, Milnes performs with the group Gandydancer. He has won first-place awards at the West Virginia State Folk Festival in Glenville, Vandalia Gathering in Charleston and the Appalachian String Band Music Festival in Clifftop, W.Va. He has performed in such events as the National Folk Festival, Friends of Old Time Music of Great Britain, the Festival of American Fiddle Tunes in Port Townsend, Wash., the Chicago Folk Festival and the Florida Old Time Music Championships.

Milnes contributed music for the soundtrack of the 1988 feature film Matewan and served as music consultant for the nationally broadcast PBS documentary series The Appalachians. He has recorded many CDs, including Hell Up Coal Holler, whichfeatures him playing with dulcimer player Lorraine Lee Hammond and includes many old West Virginia melodies like Sally Comin’ Through the Rye and Down at the Mouth of Old Stinson.

The Vandalia Award is presented annually in a ceremony in the Norman L. Fagan West Virginia State Theater at the Culture Center. The individuals who receive the award embody the spirit of the state’s folk heritage and are recognized for their lifetime contributions to West Virginia and its traditional culture.

For more information about the Vandalia Gathering and the Vandalia Award, contact Caryn Gresham, deputy commissioner for the Division, at (304) 558-0220.

The West Virginia Division of Culture and History is an agency within the West Virginia Department of Education and the Arts with Kay Goodwin, Cabinet Secretary. The Division, led by Commissioner Randall Reid-Smith, brings together the past, present and future through programs and services focusing on archives and history, arts, historic preservation and museums. For more information about the Division’s programs, events and sites, visit The Division of Culture and History is an Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action Employer.

Media Note: Gerald Milnes can be reached by email at
or by phone at (304) 637-1334.

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