Vandalia Gathering brings pickers, fiddlers, high steppers and flat footers to Charleston

By Matthew Young, RealWV

CHARLESTON, W.Va. – For nearly half-a-century, Memorial Day weekend is celebrated in the Mountain State with the annual transformation of West Virginia’s Capitol Complex, into the legendary 14th American colony of “Vandalia.” 

Originally proposed in 1768 by Benjamin Franklin, the nearly-realized colony of Vandalia would have encompassed most of present-day West Virginia, and Eastern Kentucky. While deteriorating relations between Colonial Americans and Great Britain halted the permanent creation of Vandalia, the deep-routed mountain culture and Appalachian traditions of its settlers live on well into the 21st Century. 

Watch Chance McCoy and DJ Kessinger perform at the 2024 Vandalia Gathering on The RealWV’s YouTube channel.

The annual Vandalia Gathering honors Appalachian culture and tradition by bringing together the region’s most prolific pickers for a weekend filled with banjos, fiddles, flat-footing, and tall-tale telling. And with everything from demonstrations of Irish, Scottish, and Native American dancing, to great food and face painting, to impromptu jam-sessions on the Capitol lawn, the Vandalia Gathering has something for everyone.

 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. 

Watch performances from the 2024 Vandalia Gathering ‘Old-Time Fiddle Contest’ on The RealWV’s YouTube channel.

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. 

Watch the Long Point String Band perform at the Vandalia Gathering in Charleston, May 25, on The RealWV’s YouTube channel.

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

The Vandalia Gathering continues Sunday, beginning at 10:20 a.m., with the Lap Dulcimer and Old-Time Banjo competitions. Sunday will also feature performances by Angie Richardson and Ron Mullenex. 

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