CHARLESTON, W.Va. — On Memorial Day weekend, May 27-29, the Culture Center and State Capitol grounds will set the stage for the 45th Vandalia Gathering – the state’s annual celebration of the traditional arts, music, dance, stories, crafts and food of West Virginia.
The free festival’s unique blend of ethnic and cultural heritage combines an atmosphere as comfortable as a family reunion with the excitement of a state fair. The festival will return this year in its original, full weekend format after being cancelled in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic and a downsized version of the gathering in 2021, which included an afternoon concert to honor the Vandalia Award winners.
The 2022 Vandalia Gathering kicks off at 6:30 p.m., Friday, May 27, in the State Theater with an awards ceremony for quilt and wall-hanging winners and presentation of the 2022 Vandalia Award, the state’s highest folklife honor, at 7 p.m. A concert following the award ceremonies will feature Tessa Dillon, Jesse Milnes and Emily Miller, Jenny Allinder, Pete Kosky, and the Jimmy Gabehart Band.
A Saturday evening concert starts at 7 p.m. in the State Theater and will feature performances by the Mack Samples Band, Lady D, Dwight Diller, Kanawha Tradition, Gerry Milnes, and Chance McCoy.
The Vandalia Gathering creates new memories each year for the thousands of visitors who flock from across the Mountain State and around the country to celebrate traditions passed from generation to generation. The festival pays tribute to 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.
Outside activities begin on Saturday at 10:30 a.m. Events include old-time fiddle, bluegrass banjo, and mandolin contests, with half-hour concerts by Hunter Walker, Chance McCoy, Terry Vaughan, Southridge, Brayden Williamson, and Robert Shafer & Johnny Staats. Sunday’s events begin at 11 a.m. with a one-hour gospel set by Angie Richardson, followed by old-time banjo, lap dulcimer, and flat-pick guitar contests, with half-hour concerts by Buck McCumbers & Company, Andy Fitzgibbon, the Lilly Mountaineers, Roger Bryant, Robin and Dan Kessinger, and Sawyer Chapman. The fiddle and guitar competitions have a youth category for musicians 15 years of age or younger. Traditional dance offerings range from demonstrations of ethnic and square dancing in the Great Hall of the Culture Center to an outdoor flat-foot dancing stage where spectators are encouraged to jump in and kick up their heels.
The popular Liars Contest returns on Sunday in the State Theater at 2:30 p.m. (with registration beginning at 1:30 p.m.), as storytellers compete for Goldenseal magazine’s coveted Golden Shovel award.
The Old-Time for Young ‘Uns area will have craft activities and “musical instruments” for all ages to enjoy.
During the festival, West Virginia craftspeople will be demonstrating and selling their creations. Visitors can shop for wind chimes, pottery, wall hangings, garden accessories, wood products, stained, fused and pressed glass, musical instruments, jewelry, silk scarves, candles, leather goods, baskets and a host of other items in the Artisan 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.
Vandalia food booths will feature a unique sampling of traditional and ethnic foods, including such favorites as hot dogs, roasted corn, Italian sausage sandwiches, tacos in a bag, ramps, potatoes and eggs, strawberry shortcake, and cobblers. The festival sales tent will offer Vandalia Gathering t-shirts, caps and other souvenirs, as well as music from West Virginia’s finest traditional musicians.
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 2022 will be on display from May 27 – Sept. 13. A separate exhibit, The Sounds of Music, includes various instruments from the West Virginia State Museum permanent collection.
Vandalia Gathering is a program of the West Virginia Department of Arts, Culture and History. The Culture Center is located at the State Capitol Complex in Charleston.
For more information, contact Andrea Nelson, public information specialist for the department, at (304) 558-0220. Visit https://wvculture.org/vandalia-gathering-3/ for a complete schedule of Vandalia Gathering events. Vandalia Gathering contests are open to West Virginia residents only.