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 25-27, 2012, at the Culture Center and State Capitol Complex grounds during the 36th annual Vandalia Gathering. The family-friendly event is free, and everyone is welcome.
The three-day festival, named for the proposed 14th colony, annually draws thousands of visitors from across the country to hear West Virginia musicians playing old-time fiddles, bluegrass banjos, mandolins and lap dulcimers. They also enjoy contests to determine the best musicians, liars and premier pound-cake and cupcake bakers.
Dancing ranging from ethnic to traditional square dancing in the Great Hall of the Culture Center will take place from 11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on Saturday and from noon to 4:30 p.m. on Sunday. The outdoor flatfoot and clogging dance stage will have bands and callers on hand from noon to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Spectators are encouraged to jump in and kick up their heels.
More than 40 craftspeople, including potters, quilters, woodworkers, jewelers, instrument makers and stained glass artists, as well as photographers, weavers, fabric artists, and a host of others will sell their wares from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday around the fountain on the north side of the Capitol. Salsa, honey and other food items also will be available, along with vendors offering native West Virginia plants and other garden treasures.
The festival offers a unique sampling of traditional and ethnic foods, including 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 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
The 2012 Vandalia Gathering gets under way at 7 p.m. Friday, May 25, with an awards presentation for quilt and wall-hanging winners, and the Vandalia Award, the state’s highest folklife honor. A concert with some of the state’s favorite musicians and storytellers will follow in the Norman L. Fagan West Virginia State Theater of the Culture Center. This year’s concert will feature instructors and students of Allegheny Echoes and the Augusta Heritage Center as well as pay tribute to West Virginia natives Rush Butcher and Everett Lilly. Butcher, a Braxton County native who along with the wife taught and promoted international folk dance in West Virginia for more than 50 years, died Feb. 25, 2012. Raleigh County native Lilly and his brother “B” took authentic mountain and bluegrass music to audiences in New England and Japan during the 1950s, ‘60s and ‘70s. Everett Lilly died on May 8, 2012.
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 comprise the Sunday contests.
The Vandalia Gathering offers plenty of other opportunities for hearing traditional music as impromptu jam sessions spring up under shade trees all over the grounds. Competitions for the best pound cake and best cupcake are scheduled for Saturday. Registration for the contests is from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., with judging set to begin at 1 p.m. on the plaza deck of the Culture Center.
The popular outdoor Old-Time-for-Young-’Uns area features traditional hands-on fun and games for all ages from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, and from noon to 5 p.m. Sunday. The WVU/Jackson’s Mill Center for Lifelong Learning and State 4-H Camp will have a farm wagon and docents dressed in 1800s-style clothing demonstrating candle making, shelling and grinding corn, woodworking, blacksmithing, domestic activities, folk toys, games, and more. Three Rivers Avian Center, a rehabilitation center and shelter for injured and endangered wild birds in Brooks, W.Va., will demonstrate on both days. The West Virginia Storytellers Guild can be heard at the Young-’Uns booth on Saturday. More children’s activities, including puzzles, games, Appalachian toys, and West Virginia documentaries, will be offered in the museum education room at the Culture Center.
The Norman L. Fagan West Virginia State Theater will showcase the West Virginia Storytellers Guild beginning at 12:30 p.m. Saturday as well as four musicians in concert from 1:45 to 4:30 p.m. Saturday. On Sunday, visitors in the theater can hear the Liars Contest, which begins at 1 p.m.
A 6:30 p.m. Saturday concert in the State Theater will feature the sounds of such West Virginia groups as Buck and Company Bluegrass Band, Jim Costa, Frank George with Poteen, Lester McCumbers, Terry Vaughan and the Samples Brothers.
An hour-long gospel sing featuring Angie Richardson of Charleston begins at 11:30 a.m. Sunday on the plaza deck.
The festival will wrap up on Sunday with a finale concert at 4 p.m. showcasing the talents of Richardson, Bare Bones, United Gospel Singers and Flying Colors.
In the Great Hall, the Quilts and Wall Hangings 2012 exhibition decorates the white marble walls in brilliant color and visual splendor with exquisite quilts representing the talents of West Virginia quilt-makers. Also on display at the Culture Center is The Chemical Valley: West Virginia’s Gift to the World, featuring the contributions and developments made by the manufacturing and chemical industries of West Virginia; the West Virginia Juried Exhibition 2011 exhibit featuring 17 award-winning contemporary pieces of art; the West Virginia’s First Ladies doll exhibit and Treasures of West Virginia’s Governors. The State Museum is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and from noon to 5 p.m. Sunday, and the State Museum Shop is open from 9:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Friday, May, 25; 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, May 26; and from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m. on Sunday, May 27.
For more information about the festival, including a complete schedule of activities, visit the Division’s website at www.wvculture.org and access the link for events, or call Caryn Gresham, deputy commissioner of 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 www.wvculture.org. The Division of Culture and History is an Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action Employer.
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