Eric Douglas, Chris Schulz, Jack Walker, Maria Young Published

Happy W.Va. Day — 161 Years!

firework shells explode over the river with flags in the foreground
A United States flag and a West Virginia flag fly over the Kanawha River from the back of the Hobby III sternwheeler.
Eric Douglas/West Virginia Public Broadcasting

It’s West Virginia Day! Let’s celebrate with photos taken by our news staff and a little state history.

As every eighth grader knows, West Virginia officially left Virginia on June 20, 1863, in the middle of the Civil War to become a separate state. 

On the Virginia Museum of History and Culture page titled, “Why is there a West Virginia?” it says: 

Secession from Virginia was the hope of some western Virginians as early as 1829. Many western Virginians felt underrepresented in the legislature, overtaxed and shortchanged in state spending. In many counties, rugged terrain made plantation agriculture impractical.

Following Virginia’s vote to secede from the United States in 1861, leaders in 27 counties organized to remain loyal to the federal government. After a half-year of war, they were able to expand their base, reaching across the natural barrier of the Allegheny Mountains, to add 21 additional counties and consume two-fifths of the territory of Virginia. 

What’s Happening On W.Va. Day?

There are activities all over the state. 

The official gathering at the State Capitol and Culture Center in Charleston is free and open to the public.

The celebration will begin at 10:30 a.m. with the State Capitol Dome Murals Project Dedication ceremony in the Capitol’s main building – second floor rotunda, featuring Gov. Jim Justice, Cabinet Secretary Randall Reid-Smith, Del. Jonathan Pinson, R-Mason, Sen. Vince Deeds, R-Greenbrier, students from the West Virginia Ambassadors Camp and Brody Hammers playing piano. 

The ceremony will conclude at 11 a.m. and will be followed by a reception in the Great Hall of the Culture Center, where First Lady Cathy Justice will cut the West Virginia birthday cake. Cupcakes, cookies and refreshments will be served. The first lady will also announce the winner of the inaugural Hot Dog Sauce competition.

The Culture Center and State Museum will be open 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. for guests to tour the museum and exhibit areas. Visitors are encouraged to sign the state’s birthday card to commemorate the day. Quilts and wall art will be on display.

Photos by Eric Douglas, Chris Schulz, Jack Walker and Maria Young.