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Ceremony kicks off WV Sesquicentennial Celebration

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Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin remembers when West Virginia celebrated its centennial anniversary in 1963.

He especially remembers the centennial train that made the rounds from city to city and allowed the state's residents on board to see some items depicting the culture and history of West Virginia.

Fast forward 50 years later, Tomblin is celebrating West Virginia's Sesquicentennial as the 35th governor of the 35th state.

"Today is a great day to be a West Virginian," he said. "It is a great honor, and a tremendous privilege, to stand here as the 35th governor of the 35th state on its 150th birthday."

The Sesquicentennial Ceremony began with the ringing of the bell from the USS West Virginia. The bell was rung 35 times, beginning at 1:50 p.m. Following were remarks from Tomblin and Kay Goodwin, chairwoman of the Sesquicentennial Commission. West Virginia's Poet Laureate Marc Harshman read excerpts from the poem "A Song for West Virginia." Cabell Midland High School's show choir, Rhythm in Red, sang the state song "The West Virginia Hills."

But West Virginians aren't the only ones celebrating the state's birthday. The United States Postal Service unveiled a commemorative forever stamp, depicting Roger Spencer's 2008 photo taken in Pocahontas County. Thomas Marshall, executive vice president and general counsel for USPS, was on hand to deliver remarks and unveil the stamp.

"This isn't the first time the Postal Service has paid tribute to the Mountain State," Marshall said. "On the contrary, over the years the Postal Service has issued several stamps from the statehood stamp in 1963 to the Greetings from America stamp in 2002, to pay homage to the wonders and achievements of the state of West Virginia. How could we not? After all, Wild and Wonderful West Virginia is known for its distinctive topography, rich with mountains, rugged wilderness, tunnels and bridges as well as the individualistic spirit of the people."

Tomblin also noted that spirit, saying he's traveled the country and the world and hasn't been to a place like West Virginia.

"What I've learned is there is no place like West Virginia," he said. "There is no place else with a spirit like ours. There is no place more faithful to the values that have made America great. No place with a greater devotion to the place we call home. What we're celebrating today is not just another day on the calendar. It's not just a piece of history. We're celebrating a place we all love."

Sesquicentennial activities will continue through the weekend and include lectures, parades, riverboat rides, elements of the Vandalia Gathering, a car show, fireworks and more. For a complete list and schedule of activities, visit www.wv150.com.