West Virginia’s annual celebration of the state’s traditional arts and culture is returning in 2021, albeit in a highly condensed form.
The Vandalia Gathering, typically a sprawling event held at the state Capitol Complex over Memorial Day Weekend, has been reduced to a two-hour concert on Saturday, May 29.
The concert will be free to the public and will also be streamed live online.
“I consider Vandalia to be our big West Virginia homecoming,” said Randall Reid-Smith, curator of the Department of Arts, Culture and History. “It’s all of our music, all of our crafts. I think it would be so bad to have to take another year off.”
Reid-Smith said the decision to scale back the event wasn’t made lightly. Conversations about Vandalia have been ongoing for at least six weeks, he said.
“We were just taking it little by little, and then the governor said we could do fairs and festivals, so we knew we wanted to do something,” he said.
Reid-Smith said people have been vocal about their support for the Vandalia Gathering. The event annually draws thousands of visitors from across the region to the Capital City.
“They’ve been writing in and telling us,” he said.
While the governor has lessened some COVID-19 restrictions, including executive orders allowing for the return of live music and fairs and festivals, Reid-Smith said safety remains foremost on his mind.
“Out of an abundance of caution, we’re trying to do what’s best for everyone,” Reid-Smith said.
The concert was a way to accomplish that. Reid-Smith said event planning staff were already working to book performers for the show. Most are expected to be local artists.
This year’s abridged Vandalia Gathering will also include a nod to last year’s canceled event. Along with announcing the 2021 Vandalia Award winner, the winner from 2020 will also be recognized.
There will also be an award ceremony honoring the winners of the 2021 Quilt and Wall Hangings Exhibition.
“We hope the Vandalia Gathering and the Appalachian String Band Festival are back full force next year,” Reid-Smith said.
For more information, call 304-558-0220 or visit www.wvculture.org.