West Virginia celebrates 150th birthday

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June 28, 2013

West Virginia

By Phil Sletten

CHARLESTON, West Virginia: Officials in West Virginia celebrated 150 years since the state separated from Virginia with fireworks, a trip to the site of the debate over secession in Wheeling, and a large birthday cake. Governor Earl Ray Tomblin attended festivities in Charleston before heading to Wheeling, where the West Virginia State Legislature was meeting for procedural sessions in Independence Hall. The Hall served as the site for statehood talks in the early 1860s, when West Virginia was considering splitting from secessionist Virginia and siding with the Union during the Civil War.[1][2][3]

The occasion marked the first time the governor and legislature had convened in Wheeling's Independence Hall in 50 years. The last instance occurred when West Virginia celebrated its 100th birthday. The legislature primarily dealt with organizational issues while in Wheeling for three days, but the body did hold substantive hearings on housing policy and poverty while in Wheeling. During their time in Independence Hall, officials heard re-enactments of speeches delivered during the debates over statehood, including from the state's first governor. Some observers criticized the cost of moving the legislature to Wheeling for three days. Several lawmakers gave a $20,000 check to the mayor of Wheeling to help pay for the estimated $130,000 cost of the 150th birthday festivities.[4][1][5]

One of the Independence Hall attendees was Mark Kennedy Shriver, the nephew of President John F. Kennedy. Kennedy attended the 100th birthday celebration for the state in 1963, and state officials invited Mark Kennedy Shriver in recognition of that visit.[6][7]

Governor Tomblin spent some time in Wheeling, but was also in Charleston, the capitol, to cut a birthday cake that was 8 feet long and 3 feet high. The cake was modeled after the state capitol building, and served 15,000 visitors. Cupcakes were also available at the interstate highway rest stops, and six municipalities across West Virginia celebrated the birthday with fireworks.[3][2]

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