CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Hundreds of people visiting the state Capitol grounds Thursday afternoon joined Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin in singing "Happy Birthday" to the state before enjoying a slice of sesquicentennial cake.
Following a bell-ringing ceremony on the Capitol steps, Tomblin crossed the grounds to the Cultural Center where the state's 8-foot-long, 4 1/2-foot-high birthday cake sat on a table in the lobby.
Several children who shared their birthdays with the state joined Tomblin in front of the cake.
Will Lanham of Fayetteville, who turned 9 yesterday, said he was incredibly excited to meet the governor.
"It's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," Lanham said. "Birthdays only happen once a year, so you've got to make them last."
Lanham's mother, Annita, said her son was so excited about the dual holiday that he woke her at 6 a.m. saying, "Let's get this party started."
Annita and her husband, Bill, who is the town superintendent for Fayetteville, said their family planned to stay overnight in Charleston on Thursday and they'd stick around to see the nighttime 3-D movie and fireworks display at the Capitol.
"I thought, his 9th birthday, what a memorable day that would be to spend West Virginia's 150th birthday in Charleston," Bill said.
After Tomblin finished leading the crowd in a short refrain of "Happy Birthday," workers began distributing slices on paper plates along with plastic cutlery.
The cake, baked and decorated by local food artisan Sara Lane, featured a Styrofoam model of the state's gold-domed Capitol building that was covered in more than 900 pounds of fondant, a mixture of marshmallow and powdered sugar.
The sculpture sat on 16 white sheets of cake topped with green butter cream icing piped to look like grass.
The building's edible lawn will be replaced each day of the three-day sesquicentennial celebrations. Each day, 1,600 pieces of cake will be available for anyone who wants one.
Before the cake was cut, visitors were given the opportunity to step behind the blue velvet rope encircling it to pose for pictures.
While they waited for Tomblin to arrive, guests were treated to the sounds of a bluegrass trio playing from the balcony overlooking the lobby.