Wheeling's celebration of West Virginia's 150th anniversary will begin in earnest in early June and will culminate with a jam-packed schedule of events the week of June 17-22.
State and city officials and organizers of various programs unveiled detailed plans for the sesquicentennial festivities during a news conference in the historic courtroom of West Virginia Independence Hall in downtown Wheeling Thursday, May 2.
"This is a tremendous opportunity to showcase the Northern Panhandle and to show how important Wheeling was to the formation of West Virginia," said Frank O'Brien, executive director of the Wheeling Convention and Visitors Bureau.
When the West Virginia Legislature holds an interim session in Wheeling Wednesday through Friday, June 19-21, the Convention and Visitors Bureau will have 25 vendors from Ohio and Marshall counties on hand to spotlight the area's offierings, O'Brien said.
The celebration is "an opportunity for Mountaineers to be invited to where it all began," he said, referring to Wheeling, which is the birthplace of the Mountain State.
The Convention and Visitors Bureau also is inviting tourists from many other states to visit West Virginia for the statehood sesquicentennial observance. O'Brien said the promotion is being billed as "An American Story: West Virginia, the Only State Created Out of the American Civil War."
Jeremy Morris, chair of the Wheeling Civil War 150 Committee and executive director of the Wheeling National Heritage Area Corp., noted that in the 1860s, Wheeling was the economic and communications center of the region and, thus, was "the only logical choice of place to hold the statehood meetings."
One of the highlights of the West Virginia Day festivities will be the Wheeling Symphony Orchestra's free concert at Heritage Port on Thursday, June 20. WSO Music Director Andre Raphel said that well-known West Virginia natives Johnny Staats, Kathy Mattea and Landau Eugene Murphy will perform with the orchestra.
Raphel announced that West Virginia Senate President Jeff Kessler, D-Marshall, will serve as narrator for the orchestra's performance of Aaron Copland's "Lincoln Portrait" that evening.
The concert will include the world premiere of Kenneth Fuchs' "Forever Free, a Fanfare-Overture for West Virginia" commissioned by the Wheeling Symphony. The Wheeling Civil War 150 Committee has commissioned West Virginia Poet Laureate Marc Harshman of Wheeling to write a commemorative sesquicentennial poem, which he will read at the concert.
Urban land use expert Ed McMahon, guest speaker for Friends of Wheeling's annual preservation awards dinner Wednesday, May 1, related that his military travels influenced his later career path.
As an Army lieutenant, McMahon was assigned as an aide to a U. S. general in Heidelberg, Germany, in 1969. "That experience completely and totally changed my life," he said. After traveling all over Europe with the general, McMahon said he "saw the U.S. landscape with different eyes" when he returned home to Birmingham, Ala.
"To travel is to learn," he told the Wheeling audience.
Linda Comins can be reached via email at: firstname.lastname@example.org