Wheeling prepares for W.Va.’s 150th birthday
WHEELING – Planning a birthday bash for an entire state is no small task, and Wheeling wants to make sure West Virginia’s 150th is one to remember.
City officials met Monday with representatives from the Wheeling-Ohio County Convention and Visitors Bureau, the Wheeling Area Chamber of Commerce, West Virginia Independence Hall and the Regional Economic Development Partnership to iron out the remaining details as they prepare to welcome thousands to the city where it all started for events surrounding the statehood sesquicentennial.
And those special guests will include Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin and members of the state Legislature, who will be holding their June interim meetings in Wheeling.
Events get under way at 5 p.m. June 19 with statehood-related speeches at West Virginia Independence Hall immediately following the close of legislative committee meetings.
“This is a big deal. This is a very historical event,” Wheeling Mayor Andy McKenzie said.
That event will be by invitation only because fire code limits the capacity of the courtroom at the historic venue to roughly 250, but there will be plenty for all to do in downtown Wheeling that evening. River City Aleworks will host a Statehood Block Party featuring food, drink and live entertainment from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m., and the band Streamline will take the stage for the city’s regularly scheduled Waterfront Wednesdays free concert at Heritage Port at 7 p.m.
Events June 20 begin at noon in Independence Hall, with historical re-enactments, a 35-gun salute commemorating admission of the 35th state of the Union and a ceremonial bell-ringing. The Wildcat Regiment Band will play Civil War-era music in the third-floor courtroom at 2 p.m., and from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. tours will be given of the First State Capitol Building at 1413 Eoff St.
The festivities then move outdoors, with nearly six hours of live music at Heritage Port to begin at 4 p.m., including performances by the Wheeling Symphony Orchestra, “America’s Got Talent” winner and West Virginia native Landau Eugene Murphy Jr., Johnny Staats and Kathy Mattea. The evening will conclude with a fireworks show at 10 p.m.
McKenzie said Tomblin will arrive in Wheeling the afternoon of June 19 to participate in the speeches at Independence Hall and the block party. He will stay in the area overnight and take part in June 20’s ceremonial bell ringing before heading back to Charleston to attend West Virginia Day events there.
“I was with the governor on Friday, and he’s very excited about it,” McKenzie said.
Statehood-themed events continue on June 21 with a “Beers and Beards” event at River City Ale Works at 6 p.m., a concert by the Blue and Grey Choir at West Virginia Independence Hall at 7 p.m. and a screening of the movie “Lincoln” at 9:30 p.m. at Heritage Port. June 22 will feature the annual Wheeling Arts Fest from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. with attractions at West Virginia Northern Community College, Independence Hall and the Ohio County Public Library. A Civil War ball gets under way at 6 p.m. at the historic McLure Hotel, which once served as headquarters for Union Gen. William Rosecrans.
Residents can expect to see additional police presence as well as some road closures downtown during Wednesday’s and Thursday’s events.
On June 19, police will shut down 14th Street between Main and Market streets for most of the day in preparation for the Statehood Block Party at River City Ale Works. On June 20, 16th Street between Chapline and Market will close from about 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. for events at West Virginia Independence Hall, followed by Water Street from about 4 p.m. until after the fireworks show.
“Leave early – I can’t say it often enough,” Deputy Police Chief Martin Kimball said. “Think it through ahead of time.”