One of the very best things about living in Charleston happens every Memorial Day weekend. It is like an old fashioned homecoming or family reunion, except that the family is pretty darn big.
You can read all you want to about the purpose of The Vandalia Gathering on its website, so I won't go into it here. Suffice it to say that a whole bunch of really talented West Virginians who are keenly interested in passing on our culture to future generations have been flocking to Charleston for the past thirty years.
Like any family reunion, there is food a plenty. Just about every traditional West Virginia food is available including hot dogs, hot bologna sandwiches, home made ice cream and funnel cakes.
You can also find West Virginia made food items like salsa, jellies and jam, honey and peanuts.
The site of the gathering is the grounds of the State Capitol with its beautiful lawn and magnificent shade trees. Under virtually every one of these shade trees you will find a handful of musicians jamming some old time tune on various combinations of fiddle, guitar, banjo, dulcimer and upright bass.
Year after year the same players and pickers sit or stand under the same trees and sing the same songs. Some of the larger trees hold two or more groups.
After a few years you begin to have some favorites and you can always find them right there under than same tree. The dependability of it all is comforting.
If you are inspired by all of the excellent music, you can find a few places to buy a traditional mountain dulcimer; hand made by West Virginians, of course.
On of the favorite foods at Vandalia is always roasted ears of corn. When I was a kid we always called called ears of corn "roesuneers." It wasn't until I was an adult that I figured out that the word was a corruption of "Roasting Ears."
Roasting ears of corn is hot work when the temperature is already in the upper 80's, which it nearly always is at Vanadalia.
And they roast a lot of them!
Eating a roesuneer is messy work. They are juicy and covered with melted butter that runs down your arms when you eat them. The proper form is to sit or stand, leaning sharply forward from the waist to allow the juice to drip to the ground.
I'll try to post more about Vandalia in the days to come.