West Virginia Day is celebrated each year on June 20, the anniversary of the day West Virginia became the 35th state, June 20, 1863. The day is a legal state holiday, with time off for state employees, and is generally marked with official ceremonies in Charleston and Wheeling, the state’s birthplace.
In 1963, West Virginia Day was the highpoint of a year-long celebration of the state centennial, with President John F. Kennedy speaking from the steps of the state capitol. The state enjoyed its grandest birthday party that day, beginning with a breakfast restricted to people born on June 20 and culminating with evening fireworks. A 35-layer cake was served at noon, and Kennedy’s speech was followed by a 35-gun salute.
In addition to official observances, West Virginians celebrate their state’s birthday with a variety of tavern toasts, family cookouts, and other unofficial acknowledgments. Long-standing customs include the creation of a special glass-work by Blenko Glass of Cabell County. Issued in a number equal to the state’s age, the limited-edition piece is sold in Charleston to first-comers on the morning of West Virginia Day.
While observed informally since the state’s creation, West Virginia Day became an official holiday by act of the legislature in 1927. West Virginia is one of several states to celebrate its birthday with a formal holiday.
Last Revised on November 12, 2010