CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Fiddlers, sternwheelers, pepperoni rolls, a wiener dog race, a liars contest, a chili cook-off and a typewriter on the Capitol lawn to write mash notes to West Virginia. Downtown Charleston erupted in state pride and festivities Saturday as FestivALL and the Mountain State's Sesquicentennial celebration teamed up to host events all over the city.
At the Capitol, food vendors sold barbecue sandwiches, lemonade, hot dogs and pepperoni rolls. Traditional dancers leapt and twirled on a stage in front of the Culture Center. A typewriter sat under a large magnolia tree for festival-goers to type up love notes to West Virginia.
There was a parade down Kanawha Boulevard and an exhibition of classic cars.
Volunteers handed out servings from the massive cake replica of the Capitol.
Sternwheelers gave free rides all day up and down the Kanawha River.
Throughout the Capitol grounds, visitors commented on how the Sesquicentennial has successfully helped people remember West Virginian history.
"It's about heritage and connecting to the past," Bill Ryczaj said.
Ed Clark said he hopes the Sesquicentennial has taught West Virginians even more about their history, adding that the people of the Mountain State should learn from the failures as well as the triumphs of their state.
"You cannot move forward without remembering where you came from," Clark said.
Clark sat on a curb with his wife, Joan, watching people pass the colorful booths that lined Kanawha Boulevard for the annual Smoke on the Water Chili Cook-off.
"We wanted to enjoy the outdoors and celebrate with West Virginians," Joan Clark said.
One popular tent boasted "Emancipation Chili" and a sign read, "It'll set your colon free."
Vendors wearing costumes hawked chili from vats they had tended all afternoon. Live music blared from a stage on the Capitol steps looking out toward the river.
The program at the Capitol included several events -- such as dancing and clogging competitions, music preformed on outdoor stages, and the liars contest -- usually held at the annual Vandalia Gathering in late May.
State officials had downsized Vandalia over the Memorial Day weekend and folded many of its events into the Sesquicentennial celebration, a decision that angered many people, several of whom were still upset Saturday.
Fewer artisans and crafters attended the Sesquicentennial celebration than have turned up at previous Vandalia celebrations. Only a few musicians gathered for impromptu bluegrass sessions on the lawn -- a hallmark of the Vandalia Gathering.
Kat Kiger described the artisans as deeply disappointed.
Her friend sells plants and flowers from a stand on the Capitol lawn at Vandalia every year. She turns a profit because Vandalia falls in May -- the time when gardeners buy plants to kick off growing season.
She expected that her sales might suffer Saturday, because fewer people buy plants in late June.
Many onlookers also voiced disappointment about the downsized Vandalia celebrations last month.
"They should have left Vandalia alone," Sally Adkins said.