Little pockets of music everywhere. Under trees, on the lawn, center stage. We walked the capitol grounds to a soundtrack of West Virginia heritage. It was the Vandalia Gathering, a festival celebrating the rich culture of our home state. Every Memorial Day weekend musicians and storytellers from all over gather to make music together, dance, and listen to the liar’s contest—a tall tale telling to take all.
I watched a young girl march the stage with her fiddle. She sat in a metal folding chair, feet dangling, toes trailing the floor. And then, just like that, she started to play. Her long hair swayed each time bow met string and I am always amazed at the lift and lilt created from this union. People were sitting on hay bales and lawn chairs, rapt. A fawn-colored hound dog sniffed my fingers and rubbed his pink nose into my palm. The air was scented with roasted corn, funnel cake, and laughter.
Vandalia was the name of a 14th colony, proposed in 1768, that would have included most of present-day West Virginia and Kentucky. It was named for Queen Charlotte, wife of King George III, who was an avid patron of the arts, an amateur botanist, and a descendant of the Germanic tribe the Vandals. The plan never came to fruition due to the political tensions that developed between America and Britain. The word “Vandalia” came to be associated with all the richness that encompasses mountain living. This is what the Vandalia Gathering celebrates, a way of life; all that is strong, and good, and beautiful about life in these hills.
There were little pockets of music everywhere. And it made my heart sing.
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