An estimated 25,000 are expected to turn out this weekend to celebrate regional culture at the West Virginia capitol during the 41st annual Vandalia Gathering in Charleston.
The Mountain State’s annual celebration of traditional arts, the free festival’s blend of ethnic and mountain heritage has earned it a reputation as one of the region's hallmark events.
The 2017 gathering kicked off at 7 p.m. Friday in the state culture center's theater with an concert and awards ceremony for quilt- and wall-hanging winners and a presentation of the Vandalia Award, the state’s highest folk-life honor.
Saturday and Sunday events include old-time fiddle and banjo, lap dulcimer, mandolin, flat-pick guitar, and bluegrass banjo competitions. The fiddle and guitar competitions also accommodate a youth category for musicians 15 years old or younger.
Demonstrations of ethnic and traditional Appalachian square dancing will be hosted in the Great Hall of the cultural center and will include a celebration of outdoor flat-foot dancing during which spectators are encouraged to jump-in and kick up their heels.
An Old-Time-for-Young-‘Uns area will provide craft activities for youth, including corn-husk dolls, watercolor painting, clay crafts, story-telling, and weaving with Jane Gilchrist.
Traditional pound cake and favorite-family-cookie contests will be conducted Saturday as will an afternoon cake-walk.
On Sunday, the popular Liar's Contest will be held in the theater, and Angie Richardson will present a gospel sing.
More than 40 state craftspeople will demonstrate and sell a selection that notably includes wind chimes, pottery, wall hangings, wood products, stained, fused and pressed glass, musical instruments, jewelry, silk scarves, candles, leather goods, and baskets.
Salsa, jellies, roasted nuts, salad dressings, gourmet coffee and tea, chili and dip mixes, and a variety of other food products will be available.
In addition, vendors will sell plants native to West Virginia.
Vandalia food booths every year feature a sampling of traditional and ethnic foods, including such favorites as hot dogs, roasted corn, pepperoni rolls, sausage heros, tacos in a bag, pinto beans and cornbread, ramps, potatoes and eggs, strawberry shortcake, funnel cakes and cobblers.
The festival sales tent will offer Vandalia Gathering T-shirts, caps, and other souvenirs, as well as compact discs and cassettes from West Virginia’s finest traditional musicians.
Visitors are also encouraged to tour the annual Quiltsand Wall Hangings Exhibition on display in the Great Hall,which features an annual juried exhibition of exquisite quilts and wall hangings representing the talents of West Virginia quiltmakers. The exhibit will be on display through Sept. 5.
For more information, visit the division’s website at www.wvculture.org.