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Festivities on courthouse plaza mark West Virginia's birthday

by Jennifer Biller

STAFF WRITER

Area residents gathered at the Harrison County Courthouse plaza Tuesday to commemorate the 137th anniversary of West Virginia's entry into the Union.

West Virginia's statehood resulted from the turbulence of the Civil War. While Virginia delegates voted to leave the Union in an April 1861 convention, a majority of delegates from the western region of the state opposed secession. The western delegates held a convention of their own in June 1861, in which they declared Virginia's Richmond government to be void and provided for the election of the region's own state officials. They were recognized by the federal government and Congress officially recognized West Virginia as a state on June 20, 1863.

Participants in the celebration also took time to recognize more recent and local achievements.

Joan E. Ohl, secretary of West Virginia Health and Human Resources, praised Harrison County for its community development.

"I'm delighted to be here to celebrate," Ohl said. "We're fortunate to live in Harrison County. We've been on the cutting edge for a long time. We have to be proud."

Along with having birthday cake and refreshments, those attending browsed art displays, played darts and visited with friends.

Miss West Virginia Lucy Ours sang "The Star Spangled Banner" and led the crowd in "The Pledge of Allegiance."

The festivities were coordinated by the City of Clarksburg and the Greater Clarksburg Associates.

"It's a beautiful day and everyone I see here is enjoying it," said Vilma Robey of Shinnston.

Robey was one of many artists present displaying her work. One of her paintings, entitled "A Bit of History," featured a Civil War cannon.

"I thought it was appropriate for West Virginia Day," Robey said.

This is the first year that the celebration included an art show, and there were more than 35 participants, including both amateur and professional artists.

The artwork has been on display for the last two weeks at various downtown businesses. The entries were evaluated by a panel of judges and awarded prizes donated by local businesses.

Jeff Mikorski, director of Economic and Community Development for the City of Clarksburg, was impressed with the interest in the art show.

"There are so many talented artists in this area that we're going to do this every year as an annual event to help them get exposure," Mikorski said.

Members of the North Central District Woman's Clubs provided and served cake to the public.

"There are ladies here from different clubs throughout Harrison County," said President Charlotte Cathell. "It's something we've done for a number of years."

The official West Virginia Day birthday cake was provided by the Clarksburg Club and the additional cakes were baked by the other clubs.

Becky Oliverio, 29, brought her three children to the celebration. They threw darts and were looking forward to the cake.

"They understand the celebration because they celebrate their birthdays too," she said.

Riley Davis of Jane Lew was at the party with her grandmother. The youngster was demonstrating her state pride by sporting a blue and gold face painting of the West Virginia logo.

Davis was impressed that the state was 137 years-old.

"It's older than my house," she said.

Staff writer Jennifer Biller can be reached at 626-1443.

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