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Vandalia Gathering highlights traditional arts, culture

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CHARLESTON, WV — West Virginia's Division of Culture and History will celebrate the traditional music of West Virginia on Memorial Day weekend, May 24-25, at the Culture Center during the 37th annual Vandalia Gathering. The family-friendly event is free.

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, old-time and bluegrass banjo, mandolin and lap dulcimer contests.

The festival offers a sampling of traditional and ethnic foods, including such favorites as roasted corn, hot dogs, BBQs, calzones, roast beef and meatball submarines, chicken wings, sausage, pepper and onion hero sandwiches, beans and cornbread, funnel cakes, homemade cobblers, strawberry shortcake and more from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday, May 25.

The Vandalia Gathering gets under way at 6 p.m. May 24, with festival sales. At 7 p.m., an awards presentation for quilt and wall-hanging winners and the Vandalia Award, the state's highest folk life honor, will take place in the Norman L. Fagan West Virginia State Theater of the Culture Center.

The evening concert follows the awards ceremony and will feature the West Virginia All-Star Bluegrass Band, John Lilly, Born Old, the Appalachian Country Cloggers, and Juanita Fireball and the Continental Drifters.

Music contests on May 25 include lap dulcimer, old-time banjo and fiddle, bluegrass banjo, mandolin and flat-pick guitar. Contests are open to West Virginia residents only, and winners are announced at the conclusion of the contest. Registration for all categories will begin at 9 a.m. on the plaza deck of the Culture Center. The music contests will take place in the Great Hall and the Norman L. Fagan State Theater in the Culture Center.

In the Great Hall, the Quilts and Wall Hangings 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 "West Virginia 150," which focuses on 150 people, places and events that helped to shape the lives of West Virginians over the past 150 years. It also features West Virginia's national and international accomplishments and achievements as they have unfolded since the state's birth on June 20, 1863. West Virginia's First Ladies doll exhibit and Treasures of West Virginia's Governors are on display in the Balcony Gallery.

The Vandalia Gathering will be featured on June 22 during the 150th Birthday Celebration at the State Capitol. Food and craft vendors will be plentiful on the capitol grounds. Concerts featuring some of the winners in mandolin, bluegrass and old-time banjo, flat-pick guitar, lap dulcimer, old-time fiddle and gospel singing will take place throughout the day.

Competitions will be held for the best pound cake, cupcake and maple cookie, as well as the annual Liars Contest. An outdoor dance stage will present heritage and ethnic dancing, traditional square dancing and flatfoot and clogging opportunities, with bands and callers on hand. The Old-Time-for-Young-'Uns area will provide a 4-H campfire experience for youth of all ages.

For 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 at 304-558-0220.