CHARLESTON, W.Va. - The opening ceremony for West Virginia's 150th birthday began with the ringing of a bell and ended with three loud "hip-hip hooray" cheers.
"We are a state born of tumult and strife," Kay Goodwin, secretary of Education and the Arts, said in her opening remarks.
"One hundred fifty years ago today, it wasn't a foregone conclusion our state would last through the Civil War or the tumultuous years that followed."
Goodwin said the resolve of West Virginians carried the state through, and would continue to drive the state forward.
"Today's events all over our great state launch us into the next chapter of our state's history," she said.
Hundreds of people gathered on the Capitol's south plaza for the ceremony, which began at 1:50 p.m. on Thursday, West Virginia Day. Many sat in the sun, cooling themselves with special "Happy 150th Birthday, West Virginia" hand fans. Others found shade under the trees on the Capitol lawn.
Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, the 35th chief executive of the 35th state, opened the ceremony by ringing a bell from the U.S.S. West Virginia submarine 35 times.
Tomblin, a self-professed history buff, said West Virginia's formation three years into the Civil War pointed the way to the bloody conflict's end.
"It was the darkest chapter in our nation's history, but out of that darkness came a light," he said.
Tomblin also spoke of the state's centennial celebration 50 years ago. He was 1 year old at the time, and recalled the events and activities commemorating West Virginia's 100th birthday.
"I was just a boy but I knew even then I was part of something special," he said.