Cannon fire and historical re-enactors ushered in West Virginia's 149th birthday Wednesday, and organizers hinted much more is in store for next year when the state celebrates its sesquicentennial.
A three-day "West Virginia Day" celebration is planned in 2013, said Travis Henline, site manager for West Virginia Independence Hall in Wheeling. It will begin with a parade downtown that will travel the same route of the parade that took place on West Virginia's original date of statehood - June 20, 1863.
On Wednesday, re-enactors delivered the speeches given by Francis H. Pierpont, governor of the Restored Government of Virginia, and Arthur I. Boreman, West Virginia's first governor, on the day the state officially joined the union.
Photo by Joselyn King
Wheeling historian Margaret Brennan, left, speaks with Kris Yost and Sen. Jack Yost, D-Brooke, during West Virginia’s birthday celebration Wednesday at West Virginia Independence Hall.
The state's birthday also was celebrated at the Cockayne farmhouse in Glen Dale where Cockayne Farmstead Program Director Tom Tarowsky dressed as home's former owner Samuel A.J. Cockayne as part of West Virginia Day activities.
Visitors to Independence Hall had the opportunity to see two new exhibits. "Restoring the Glory: West Virginia Independence Hall" details the massive restoration effort that has happened at the facility in recent decades, while "Uncommon Vernacular"explores historic architecture.
Both exhibits are located on the second floor of the building. Some came to Independence Hall to learn West Virginia history, and sample the official state birthday cake served there each year.
"It's my birthday too, and I thought I might as well celebrate it with West Virginia," said Kelly Fonner of Bethany, who attended with Ashlee Baker, also of Bethany.
Wheeling native Diane Griffin-Donley, now a resident of Morgantown, came to the celebration with her mother, Joan Griffin of Wheeling. The Donleys admitted to being history fans.
Henline said he hopes state officials will come to Wheeling next year for the 150th birthday party.
Events will begin June 20, 2013, and festivities will include additional re-enactments and musical performances.
The parade will begin at Market Street, then proceed down 12th Street to Main Street, from Main Street to 16th Street, then to Eoff Street.
The parade will conclude at the First Capitol Building in Wheeling, current law offices which once housed West Virginia's first government.
Wheeling historian Margaret Brennan hopes in the next year, a statue honoring Pierpont can be erected outside Independence Hall.
"There are many statues in this state honoring Stonewall Jackson of the confederacy, but there are none honoring Pierpont." she said. "I find that appalling. If we were ever going to get one, now is the time."