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Charleston, Wheeling celebrates West Virginia Day with birthday cake, local events

By Shawnee Moran, Intern reporter

West Virginia doesn’t look a day over 150.

People throughout the state will celebrate West Virginia’s 151st birthday today. Charleston will commemorate the day with music, fun activities and birthday cake for people of all ages.

“Every year we host a birthday party. We try to do something that speaks about West Virginia and activities that will be of interest to adults and children,” said Caryn Gresham, deputy commissioner for the state Division of Culture and History. “Starting at 10 we will have special educational activities — our museum education staff will put together fun activities for children to do.”

This year the Culture Center’s educational activities include make-and-take art projects and a museum scavenger hunt. Gresham said the scavenger hunt is a fun family friendly activity designed to get people excited about the exhibits.

“The idea is that when you have to look for (your next clue) you are paying closer attention and getting involved in the museum. One of the goals our museum (has) is to be interactive,” Gresham said. “We want them to watch the videos and read the information, so we designed a series of activities for youth that make them look for stuff in the museum.”

Throughout the day there will be a giant West Virginia birthday card available for visitors to sign, along with fun photo opportunities. The Culture Center, located on the state Capitol Complex, will also present a new museum exhibit along with a viewing of last year’s sesquicentennial video “150 in 3-D: A Century and a half of West Virginia Pride.”

Starting at 11 a.m. Billy Joe Peyton, a local historian, will discuss his new book, “Historic Charleston,” immediately following a book signing.

Jenny Allinder and Matt Linsley will perform live music for people around noon, just in time for the main event — the cutting of the birthday cake. This year the cake is purchased from “A Piece of Cake,” a bakery located in South Charleston, and is decorated with the image of the West Virginia seal. First Lady Joanne Jaeger Tomblin will join the merriment during the afternoon and will cut the cake.

“It’s fun and we love it when the first lady or governor can come out to help cut the cake,” Gresham said. “We invite everyone that’s there to sing happy birthday to West Virginia.”

Jayne Amerighi, of Winthrop Harbor, Il., and Jens Gregersen of Denmark will attend the cake-cutting as well, but for a different reason. This duo has traveled all across the United States in search of a good home to a 151-year-old American Flag.

The flag belongs to Steen Rydeng of Denmark, who inherited the family heirloom when his uncle died in July 1987. Gregersen, his friend, wishes to find a place such as the Culture Center that would buy the flag and donate it to a good home.

The couple visited the state Division of Culture and History Thursday and hope that someone will step forward with a donation so the flag could rest in West Virginia.

“The director, Charles Morris (of the Division of Culture and History), would love to have the flag. He hopes someone would come forth and buy it to donate it,” Amerighi said.

The Culture Center has more than 60,000 items in the state collection now and Gresham said they would be delighted to receive items that they can add to their collection. The flag has 35 stars in the canton, the blue field, marking when West Virginia became a state. It is in excellent condition — no rips or tears — making this finding rare.

These high school friends were briefly reunited at their 50th class reunion in 2012 when Gregersen traveled back to the United States. Soon after he decided he wanted to travel the west coast, so he bought a red Ford Mustang convertible and traveled to Los Angeles. After his travels he started searching for a place to store the car during the winter and Amerighi volunteered. Now they are traveling the East Coast, all while trying to find a permanent home for the flag.

Gregersen said he hopes the flag ends up in the museum on display for the people of West Virginia. While the pair hasn’t visited West Virginia before, they said they are enjoying their time in Charleston.

Wheeling will also have a celebration for West Virginia Day at Independence Hall with Civil War re-enactors. They will give tours of the building as historical figures dressed in period clothing, and tell of the history of the building. At noon there will be a ceremony in the historic courtroom, followed by a birthday cake cutting at 12:30. The Heritage and Dance Association will perform at 1 p.m. with chances for audience participation. All of the events are free and open to the public.

For more information contact 304-558-0220. For information about how to purchase the flag for donation contact Gregersen at greger@nbi.dk.

Contact writer Shawnee Moran at 304-348-4872 or shawnee.moran@dailymailwv.com. Follow her on Twitter @shawneemoran22.


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