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.
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.