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Community Roots: Selections from the Local Legacies Project
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Fiddler Melvin Wine, born in Braxton County, WV, in 1909
Fiddler Melvin Wine, born in Braxton County, WV in 1909, was the recipient of the first Vandalia Award in 1981 Photo: Michael Keller / WV Division of Culture and History

The Vandalia Gathering

This folklife celebration is held each Memorial Day weekend at the cultural center and state capitol complex grounds in Charleston. The Vandalia Gathering honors the passing down of time-honored traditions of West Virginia's mountain culture. Since 1976, the Vandalia Gathering has brought dancers, musicians, storytellers, and craftspeople from front porches in quiet communities and isolated valleys to showcase their talents.

A Friday night square dance opens the festival, followed by a Vandalia sampler concert. During the weekend a host of musical competitions are held among fiddler, mandolin, banjo, lap dulcimer, and flatpick guitar players. 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 Vandalia Gathering, sponsored by the West Virginia Division of Culture and History, preserves the state's ethnic heritage through a variety of free exhibitions, programs and workshops. Fancy footwork takes the stage in the great hall of the cultural center as Irish, Swiss, Scottish, European, and Appalachian styles of heritage dancing are demonstrated in traditional costume. The outdoor flat-footing stage is an annual highlight as spectators are encouraged to jump in and kick up their heels. On Sunday, a gospel singing workshop for both novices and accomplished singers fills the air.

Storytellers outdo themselves during the liars' contest, in which participants weave stories handed down through generations or make them up on the spot. A hands-on area designed for children encourages them to try Appalachian arts and home crafts, such as butter churning, basket making, dancing, and playing musical instruments. At the crafts exhibit, West Virginia artisans show their work which includes wood-fired pottery, raku, Native American jewelry, flutes, folk toys, and glass work. Another highlight is the annual summer quilt exhibition at the West Virginia State Museum, located in the cultural center.

Vandalia was the name for a proposed colony on land that is now West Virginia. The word, "Vandalia," was chosen as a political gesture to George III, whose consort, Queen Charlotte, was descended from the German Vandals. The American Revolution, however, halted plans for the colony.

Documentation includes 34 slides, the West Virginia Division of History and Culture annual report for 1997-1998; winners of the Vandalia Award, West Virginia's highest folklore honor, from 1981 to 19991; a VHS tape of the 1999 Vandalia's liars contest; a video of the 1996 Vandalia Gathering; a Vandalia Sampler CD from 1977-1987; and a brochure.

Originally submitted by: John D. Rockefeller,Senator.

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The Local Legacies project provides a "snapshot" of American Culture as it was expressed in spring of 2000. Consequently, it is not being updated with new or revised information with the exception of "Related Website" links.

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