Celebration lasts through weekend
West Virginians will celebrate the state's 150th birthdayThursday, June 20 — and all weekend long — in myriad ways. There will be music, art, fireworks, cake and several opportunities to take a look back through the journey to statehood and the people and events that have left their marks.
Today's issue of The Herald-Dispatch is taking part in the celebration, with plenty to offer history buffs and those looking for things to do on this Sesquicentennial weekend.
It's certainly something to celebrate, and proud West Virginians aren't holding back.
"West Virginians love West Virginia," said historian Ken Sullivan, executive director of the West Virginia Humanities Council and editor of the online encyclopedia wvencyclopedia.org. "Given the great love we all hold for the state, nobody needs a big reminder that this is a big deal. Our state has such a wonderful sense of place and a wonderful sense of self."
It's a perfect "teachable moment" for historians to remind residents of their rich heritage, he said.
"West Virginia, of course, was created as a direct result of the Civil War," he said. "It really was freed from the state of Virginia by the war. Lincoln was the great emancipator and ended slavery, and another product of that was our state was set free to find its own destiny. He referred to it as our secession."
Those who want more West Virginia history can look forward to a "Flagship Lecture" in October focused on Lincoln's decision to emancipate West Virginia, Sullivan said. But for now, it's time to celebrate and learn some history because, as he said, 150th birthday parties don't roll around too often.
Simon Perry, professor emeritus at Marshall University, remembers commemorating the state's 100th birthday, and pointed out that while the state has faced plenty of hardships and has challenges ahead, it's a place abounding in human spirit and natural beauty to celebrate.
"We're fiercely independent, we've done more than our part in wars, and the citizens of West Virginia are so very friendly, sharing and helpful," he said.
While many West Virginians may look southward to appreciate Virginia's natural beauty, "I think we have a more varied beauty in West Virginia than almost any other state in the union," Perry said. "We have scenic views, and West Virginia has great potential for a takeoff in new directions other than just energy, though I know how important energy is in providing jobs for hardworking West Virginians."
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