CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The West Virginia Division of Culture and History invites the public to celebrate the traditional arts, music, dance, stories, crafts and food of West Virginia on Memorial Day weekend, May 27-29, 2016, at the Culture Center and State Capitol grounds in Charleston during the 40th annual Vandalia Gathering. The family-friendly event is free, and everyone is welcome.

The festival, named for the proposed 14th colony, annually draws thousands of visitors from across the country to hear West Virginia musicians competing in old-time fiddle, guitar, mandolin, lap dulcimer and old-time banjo and bluegrass banjo contests.

Vandalia Gathering offers a unique sampling of 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.

The 2016 Vandalia Gathering kicks off at 7 p.m. Friday, May 27, with an awards ceremony for quilt and wall-hanging winners and presentation of the Vandalia Award, the state’s highest folklife honor. A concert follows the awards ceremony and includes a memorial tribute by Mark Crabtree and friends to the late Elmer Rich, an award-winning fiddler from Morgantown, Monongalia County, who passed away last June at age 95, having played fiddle for about 80 years, Frank George, Buck and Company, High Ridge Ramblers, Gerry Milnes and Dread Pirate Roberts in the Norman L. Fagan West Virginia State Theater of the Culture Center.

Information and food booths, the crafts circle, Goldenseal, and festival and artist sales are open from 10:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday.

Music contests on Saturday include old-time fiddle with three categories: 60 and over for seniors, 15 and under for youth and 16-59, bluegrass banjo (all ages) and mandolin (all ages). Contests are open to West Virginia residents only, and winners are announced at the conclusion of the contests. Registration begins at 11 a.m. and ends at noon.

The Old-Time for Young ‘Uns and Family Activities area will be open from 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday. Visitors can enjoy craft activities, including weaving with Jane Gilchrist, storytelling, scavenger hunts, archaeology digs and a special program,“Guitars in the Classroom,” featuring students at Clay Elementary School under the direction of Tracy Wayne from 11 a.m. to noon and 1 – 2 p.m. Sunday hours at the Young ‘Uns tent are noon to 5 p.m. with the special Three Rivers Avian presentation from 1 – 2 p.m. replacing “Guitars in the Classroom.”

Appalachian Heritage Dancing will be held in the Great Hall of the Culture Center from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday and noon to 4 p.m. on Sunday. An outdoor flat-foot and square dancing stage will operate from noon to 5 p.m., Saturday and Sunday. Spectators are encouraged to jump in and kick up their heels.

In addition, there will be a pound cake and favorite family cookie contest on Saturday followed by a “Cake Walk” later in the afternoon. Registration is from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m.

The Saturday evening concert at 7 p.m. will present more of West Virginia’s finest entertainers, including Robert Shafer and Johnny Staats, Bobby Taylor and Friends, Jim and Valerie Gabehart, John Morris, Dwight Diller and 1937 Flood, who will perform a musical memorial tribute to the late Joe Dobbs of Kanawha County, who passed away last September and was known for his radio show Music from the Mountains, his music store Fret ‘n Fiddle and his love of music and the old-time music scene.

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. In addition, vendors will sell 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, pepperoni rolls, sausage heroes, 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 compact discs and cassettes from West Virginia’s finest traditional musicians.

Information and food booths, the crafts circle, Goldenseal, and festival and artist sales are open from 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday, and Angie Richardson will perform a gospel sing from 11 a.m. to noon at the old-time stage.

Music contests on Sunday include old-time banjo with two categories: 60 and over for seniors, 15 and under for youth and 16-59, lap dulcimer (all ages) and flat pick guitar with two categories: 15 and under for youth and 16 and over. Registration begins at 11:30 a.m. and ends at 12:30 p.m. for banjo and at noon until 1 p.m. for guitar.

On Sunday, the popular Liars Contest will take place in the theater with registration at 1:30 – 2:30 p.m., followed immediately by the contest. Some of West Virginia’s finest storytellers will regale the crowd with their best tall tales during registration.

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 2016 will be on display from May 27- Sept. 6.

The West Virginia State Museum, the State Archives and the gift shop are open on Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The museum and gift shop are also open at the same times on Sunday.

Vandalia Gathering is a program of the West Virginia Division of Culture and History.

For more information, contact Caryn Gresham, deputy commissioner of the division, at (304) 558-0220. Visit the division’s website at for a complete schedule of Vandalia Gathering events. Vandalia Gathering contests are open to West Virginia residents only.

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.