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‘Vandalia Gathering’ returns to State Capital for Memorial Day Weekend

West Virginia Press Association Staff Report

CHARLESTON, W.Va. – The annual Vandalia Gathering honors Appalachian culture and tradition by bringing together the region’s most talented pickers for a weekend filled with music, laughter, smiles, and storytelling. And with everything from demonstrations of Irish, Scottish, and Native American dancing, to great food and face painting, to pick up jam-sessions on the Capitol lawn, the Vandalia Gathering has something for the whole family.

In what has become a 47-year-long tradition, West Virginia celebrates Memorial Day weekend with the transformation of the Capitol Complex, into the legendary 14th American colony of “Vandalia.” 

Steeped in both history and folklore, the Vandalia Gathering traces its roots to the earliest Appalachian settlers. According to the West Virginia Department of Arts, Culture and History, “Vandalia was a proposed colony, originating in the land speculations of politically influential Englishmen and prominent Colonial Americans.” 

First thought of in 1768 by Benjamin Franklin – one of the original organizers of the Great Ohio Company –  the nearly-realized colony of Vandalia would have encompassed most of present-day West Virginia, and Eastern Kentucky. The name was chosen as an homage to Queen Charlotte, wife of King George III, who claimed to be a descendant of the Vandals through her birth to German nobility. 

While deteriorating relations between Colonial Americans and Great Britain put a halt to the permanent establishment of Vandalia, the deep-routed mountain culture and Appalachian traditions of its settlers live on well into the 21st Century. 

The event kicked off Friday night with the annual Quilt Award, and Vandalia Award and tribute. An indoor concert at the Culture Center Theatre featuring Dakota Harper, The McAbre Brothers, Roger Bryant, and Slow Train closed out the evening. 

Saturday featured the highly anticipated Old-Time Fiddle contest. And with some 30 pickers competing, attendees of the gathering were treated to some tremendous fiddle playing. 

In the youth brackett (15-and-under), Nate Atkinson and Joe Butterworth took second and third place respectively, with young Liam Farley taking first place. As the contest’s winner, Farley received a new fiddle provided by an anonymous donor. 

And for the adult brackett (59 and under), coming in fifth place was Emily Miller. Fourth place and third place respectively were Chance McCoy and Jesse Milnes. Jake Krack was runner-up, and Tessa McCoy was named 2024 Vandalia Gathering Old-Time Fiddle Champion. 

Saturday also featured a performance by the Long Point String Band. The evening was capped off by a second indoor concert in the Culture Center Theatre, which featured Mack Samples, Lady D, the Samples Brothers Band, Kanawha Tradition, Robin and Dan Kessinger and several other performers. 

For more information about the Vandalia Gathering, visit wvculture.org

(L-R) Fifth place – Emily Miller, fourth place – Chance McCpy, third place – Jesse Milnes, second place – Jake Krack, first place Tessa McCoy.
First place – Liam Farley, second place – Nate Atkinson, third place – Joe Butterworth

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