CHARLESTON -- The annual Vandalia Gathering, a free celebration of the traditional arts, music, dance, stories, crafts and food of West Virginia, took place last weekend at the state Capitol Complex.
The unique blending of ethnic and cultural heritage combines an atmosphere as comfortable as a family reunion with the excitement of a state fair.
The festival, named for the proposed 14th colony, creates new memories for the thousands of visitors who flock from across the Mountain State and the entire country to celebrate traditions passed from generation to generation.
In addition to offering a sampling of West Virginia's traditional mountain culture by showcasing craftspeople and performers, the Vandalia Gathering pays tribute to the state's ethnic heritage through a variety of exhibitions and programs.
Vandalia was a proposed colony, originating in the land speculations of politically influential Englishmen and prominent Colonial Americans. In 1768 Benjamin Franklin was one of the organizers of the Great Ohio Company, which proposed the creation of Vandalia as the 14th colony. It would have included almost all of present West Virginia, except for the Eastern Panhandle, and much of Kentucky. The name was a gesture to Queen Charlotte, wife of George III, who proudly claimed descent from the Vandals through her birth to German nobility. The plan almost came to fruition in 1772-74, until the deteriorating American political situation made the British government back off.
The word Vandalia is rich in West Virginia heritage, synonomous with the desire for a free government in the mountains. And today, Vandalia is a place every Memorial Day weekend at the state Capitol where the Vandalia Gathering presents traditional music, dance, crafts and food to keep the old ways alive in young minds.