Gala to Benefit W.Va. Folklife Center

Monday, October 10, 2005

An evening filled with music, food and traditional fun such as an old-fashioned cake walk, will mark the fifth annual West Virginia Folklife Center Gala on Saturday, Oct. 29, at Fairmont State's Falcon Center. The gala will also feature the presentation of the 2005 B.B. Maurer West Virginia Folklife Scholar Award and a silent auction.

A $15 admission fee per person covers the cost of all the gala events. FS students and children younger than 10 will be admitted for free.

Proceeds will benefit the Folklife Center Kennedy Barn Restoration Fund at the Fairmont State Foundation, Inc. Funds will be used to help renovate what will become the permanent home of the Folklife Center, the former Kennedy Barn/Colonial Apartments building on the west side of the FS campus. The renovated facility will include a great room, a gallery and reception area, as well as space for offices and archival storage. Currently located in the Education Building, the center is part of the FSU Department of Language & Literature.

"The mission of the Folklife Center is to identify, preserve and perpetuate the region's culture heritage through academic studies, educational programs, festivals, performances and publications," said Dr. Judy P. Byers, Director of the Folklife Center.

The event will begin at 6 p.m. with the silent auction and non-stop folk music, a light buffet of savory and sweets, folk art demonstrations and exhibits and a vintage book sale. A special musical guest will be dulcimer musician Patty Looman, the winner of the 2004 B.B. Maurer W.Va. Folklife Scholar Award. She will perform with the band Wha-Ke-We-Nn, which features the hammered dulcimer, fiddle, guitar, autoharp and harmonica. The cake walk will be from 7-7:30 p.m. followed by the closing of the silent auction bidding at 7:45 p.m.

"Patty Looman is known regionally as mentor, teacher, song-catcher, player and friend," Byers said. "Few people have contributed as much to traditional music as Patty Looman. Through her many activities, she has become a living example of the spirit of music and its joy, and has influenced the lives of many students within and outside of West Virginia."

Byers said the folk art demonstrations are expanded this year to include quilting, jewelry making, wood carving, basket weaving, caning and other folk work with materials and fabric. Silent auction items will include original art, pottery, glassware and some antiques. Several regional folklore writers and artists will also be attending the gala.

"This is the first time we've hosted the gala in the fall," Byers said. "This is not just a fair. We try to show the three areas of folklife, which are oral, customary and material artifacts. Even though it's a fund-raiser, it's a celebration, too."

The presentation of the 2005 B.B. Maurer W.Va. Folklife Scholar Award is set for 8 p.m. This year's recipient is Dr. Ken Sullivan, Executive Director of the W.Va. Humanities Council. Sullivan's remarks will focus on the new West Virginia Encyclopedia, for which he serves as editor-in-chief.

One of Sullivan's major accomplishments in his work on the council has been the restoration of the 1836 MacFarland-Hubbard House on Kanawha Boulevard in Charleston. Before joining the council in 1997, he served as editor of Goldenseal magazine for 18 years. During most of that time, Sullivan was also Folklife Director of the West Virginia Division of Culture and History. As editor of Goldenseal, Sullivan's name became synonymous with West Virginia's cultural interpretation. The magazine's circulation also tripled. He is the author of several books, including "The Potomac: A Nation's River" and "Thurmond: A New River Community."

Sullivan has a B.A. from the University of Virginia, an M.A. from the University of Rochester and a Ph.D. from the University of Pittsburgh, all in the field of American history. He is married to Debra Sullivan, the principal of Charleston Catholic High School, and has a son, Benjamin, a graduate of the West Virginia University School of Law, currently practicing law in Charleston.

For more information on how you can make a gift in support of the programs sponsored by the West Virginia Folklife Center at Fairmont State or for special limited, legacy naming opportunities in the new Folklife Center facility, contact Kim Riggi of the Fairmont State Foundation, Inc., at (304) 367-4014 or toll-free at (800) 372-2586. For more information about the West Virginia Folklife Center at Fairmont State, visit