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Remember why it's called 'Almost heaven'

June 24, 2012
By CRAIG HOWELL , Weirton Daily Times

The other day, residents all over West Virginia observed the Mountain State's 149th birthday.

While there may still be some debate going concerning the origins of West Virginia's founding (some say it was not legal), there is no doubt West Virginians have much to be proud of when it comes to our home.

Sure, we have our problems. Just as any other state, we have to watch ourselves financially. We have highways and bridges in need of maintenance, some communities without water or sewer services, and a need to improve our educational systems.

But, those are things every state is dealing with, and at least we're not billions of dollars in debt like California.

Try for just a little bit and look at the positives around us. I know it's difficult these days to get past all the bad things, but if you try for just a little bit, I promise there is some good to see, experience and appreciate about West Virginia.

West Virginia is the home of many proud, hard-working individuals who will do whatever they can to accomplish their goals.

There is plenty of history within our borders, with forts and blockhouses lining the Ohio River during the days of the early frontier, to the battlefields of the American Civil War, to the Rocket Boys and Chuck Yeager.

The Henry Tarr Furnace was used to produce ammunition for some of the nation's biggest military battles. FiestaWare, made in Hancock County, is known worldwide. People come from all over to take in our natural beauty.

There are organizations which work to promote much of what we have, not only locally and throughout the state, but also across the country and even around the world.

From West Virginia University to Marshall to West Liberty, many of our schools of higher education are reaching new heights of renown and attracting students they would have thought impossible even a decade ago.

When I attended West Liberty, for example, there were many exchange students attending, and the school was attracting athletes from as far as Florida and California.

How many of us have really taken the time to travel through our state? How many have driven the few hours to see Charleston? How many have taken a long weekend to Canaan Valley or Blackwater Falls? Have you ever been to the Exhibition Coal Mine in Beckley?

There's so much to see, and we're adding more every year.

Even just locally, there is a great deal to see and in which to find pride. We have places like Tomlinson Run, Brooke Hills, and Oglebay if you want to get away for a few hours.

A new zipline course is being installed in Marshall County. That's an activity which seems to be growing everywhere, and now there will be the opportunity within a short drive.

Many of our communities have annual events to showcase their own history and flavor, with everything from our county fairs and Community Days to concert series and special holiday activities.

Ireland, W.Va., in Lewis County, celebrates its namesake by holding a yearly road bowling competition.

There's the National Radio Astronomy Observatory in Green Bank, where people can actually take a tour and see the giant radio telescopes. Just remember to keep your cell phones off.

We probably don't think much about it, but there are many people in this country who have never eaten a pepperoni roll.

Wheeling has Independence Hall, the birthplace of our state. This year, there were many events in honor of West Virginia Day, with some new temporary exhibits showcased for the celebration.

In the fall, there are miles of colorful tree foliage and lots of natural surroundings with a variety of animal and plantlife.

There are hiking and bicycle trails winding all over the state, and even areas to take a canoe or other boat and see West Virginia by water.

And, while it may be taking longer than we may like to see, there is some hope coming around as far as jobs, with motor companies, tech groups and other operations actually starting to look at us for their business.

West Virginia has its share of problems, but that doesn't mean West Virginians shouldn't hold their heads high.

We have much to celebrate, and much to remember from the last 149 years.

Take some time to look around and see just what West Virginia has to offer for us and everyone else.

I'm sure there will be even more celebration taking place next year.

It's not often we get to celebrate 150 years of something, after all.

(Howell, a resident of Colliers, is managing editor of The Weirton Daily Times, and can be contacted at or followed on Twitter @CHowellWDT)

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