CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) - When Chelsea Ruby became executive director of the West Virginia Sesquicentennial Commission a few years ago, her hope was to set up some type of ceremony in Charleston to mark the state's 150th birthday.
"And now a ceremony has grown into a four-day event at the Capitol, and then a very long list of events all around the state," Ruby said.
How long? How about at least 140 events over the next week alone. From fireworks to concerts to old-time baseball games, residents have a big list to choose from.
Chances are, you'll run into a celebration somewhere, even when going to the bathroom - rest area welcome centers throughout the state will have information booths and pass out free refreshments and food.
Of course, the celebrations are about history: After Virginia voted to secede from the Union in 1861, West Virginia began a two-year process of seceding from Virginia and became the 35th state on June 20, 1863.
West Virginia is the only state to secede from a Confederate state. Nevada, which separated from the Utah Territory and joined the Union in October 1864, is the only other state formed during the Civil War.
Some West Virginia sesquicentennial events will focus on President Abraham Lincoln, who signed a bill in December 1862 approving West Virginia's creation as a pro-Union state.
A traveling exhibit "Lincoln: The Constitution and the Civil War" will open at West Virginia University's Erickson Alumni Center in Morgantown next Saturday. A Lincoln re-enactor will be on hand to share stories about the 16th president's views on West Virginia's statehood.
West Virginia families sent troops to both the Union and Confederate sides of the Civil War. Some communities are planning Civil War re-enactments this week, and scholars will give talks about the state's birth.
"To me, that's really what the remembrance is: how 150 years ago we created this state and the unusual way it which it was created," said David Javersak, a retired history professor and Wheeling Conventions scholar who serves on the Sesquicentennial Commission. "Let's face it, no other state came into being in the fashion that West Virginia did. It's fascinating."
The 150th celebration kicks into high gear on Thursday with a statewide bell ringing at 1:50 p.m. That evening in Charleston starts the first of three straight nights of fireworks at the state Capitol. A 3-D movie will be projected onto the steps and columns of the Capitol all three nights.
The West Virginia Symphony and the Appalachian Children's Chorus will perform Capitol concerts Thursday night, and Lonestar and Ronnie Milsap are on tap for Saturday night.