"I started going when I was 10 years old. I learned to play traditional music at Vandalia. I was hoping my daughter would learn to play at Vandalia," Kosky said. "I think that once you scale something back, it probably won't come back again."
Caryn Gresham, the deputy commissioner of the West Virginia Division of Culture and History, said the state has every intention of holding a full Vandalia Gathering next year. She said that incorporating Vandalia into the sesquicentennial was done with Vandalia's best interests in mind.
"One of the things we hope is that, by celebrating Vandalia at the sesquicentennial, we introduce Vandalia to some people who haven't been for a while and we'll have an infusion of new people," Gresham said.
The timing might be entirely coincidental, but this is the second consecutive year that Vandalia has been scaled down in some way. Last year, for the first time, on-site camping was not allowed on the Capitol Complex. There will be no camping this year and Gresham did not know if there would be camping in the future.
"A lot of people travel, and they come back here and it's like a musician's family reunion, and they camp out there in the parking lot," said Mike Webb, a guitarist and longtime Vandalia attendee. "And people can't come because they can't afford a hotel room."
Robin Kessinger, a flatpick guitar legend and the founder of the state flatpick guitar championship, said the changes have the effect of dumbing down the festival.
"I personally know people who live for the Vandalia Gathering," Kessinger said. "Some people are going to go to anything that pops up, but then you've got the people that live and breathe for the music."
The fear that a scaled down Vandalia could become status quo is widespread among musicians, but there's also suspicion among some that the Division of Culture and History is not as appreciative of traditional music as it once was.
"The very governing body that's supposed to facilitate this is kind of rejecting it," Kosky said. "Vandalia used to be your weekend if you were a musician, now they're just giving us the back of their hand."
Norman Fagan was the state's first commissioner of Culture and History -- he retired in 1989 -- and he is credited with creating the Vandalia Gathering.
"It's such an enormously popular event, and I know the commissioner is completely committed to it," Fagan said. "They're probably trying to enhance the sesquicentennial by bringing something of proven quality into an unknown event."
Reach David Gutman at david.gut...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5119.