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Double dose of Vandalia

WANT TO GO?

The Vandalia Gathering

WHERE: Capitol Complex grounds

WHEN: 6 p.m. Friday, 9 a.m. Saturday

COST: Free

INFO: 304-558-0220 or www.wvculture.orgCHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Longtime fans of West Virginia's Vandalia Gathering will probably notice a few changes this weekend when the annual West Virginia culture and music celebration returns to the Capitol grounds.

It's going to be a little smaller.

"You won't see the craft vendors," said Caryn Gresham, deputy commissioner at the West Virginia Division of Culture and History. "We'll still have those great food vendors and the young gun's tent with lots of activities for the kids, but the dance stage, where people can go and clog, won't be there either, or the Liar's contest.

"All of that is being moved to the Sesquicentennial in June."

It's also a day shorter. No activities are planned for Sunday.

Not everyone is going to be happy about that, but Gresham said with Vandalia's plans to take part in West Virginia's 150th birthday celebration June 20-23, it was necessary to scale back.

Fans of the festival aren't losing a day; they're actually gaining three. Plus Gresham said the June portion would be a great opportunity to reach out to people coming to Charleston for FestivALL, some of whom may not really know what the Vandalia Gathering is all about.

She said, "With FestivALL going on at the same time, we feel like it's a great chance to show people there's a lot of things to see here in West Virginia."

Many of the events and attractions missing from this weekend will turn up in June, along with a few extra.

"All of the musicians who win contests this weekend will be invited back to a special Vandalia music stage," she said. "And yes, we'll have the dancing and the craft circle and of course, the food vendors."

The deputy commissioner said they tried to divide the resources of the Vandalia Gathering without taking away too much from what really draws people to the festival.

"This weekend we're focusing on the music contests and concerts," she said.

Following the presentation of the Vandalia Award to Gerry Milnes on Friday evening, there will be special concert showcasing West Virginia traditional musicians.

 "We've got the West Virginia All-Star Bluegrass Band, John Lilly, Born Old, The Appalachian Country Cloggers and Juanita Fireball and the Continental Drifters," Gresham said then laughed. "Juanita is a guy named Mike. They're just a really fun band."

The music continues through the weekend with the usual slate of competitions, performances and award ceremonies.

"We're not leaving any of that out," she said, but with the two separate dates, they won't be adding anything new this weekend, either.

Gresham pointed out that aside from the numerous concerts and competitions, the Vandalia Gathering will still be a place where bluegrass and string band musicians can come and jam with their friends under the trees on the Capitol grounds. UPDATE: Though outdoor jams are welcome, there will be no official outdoor stages this year.

She said they'd never want to stop that.

"For a lot of people, the Vandalia Gathering is their annual reunion with old friends. This is where they come to hook up with other musicians and play with people they don't see regularly."

Reach Bill Lynch at lynch@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5195.


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