CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- West Virginia is ready to get its 150th birthday party started.
The state kicks off a four-day sesquicentennial celebration today with festivals and speeches marking the day West Virginia entered the Union on June 20, 1863.
Events being held today include the unveiling of a West Virginia 150th birthday stamp, a statewide bell ringing, and concerts and fireworks shows in Charleston and Wheeling.
One of those bells is at the 165-year-old Second Presbyterian Church in Wheeling. The same bell heralded the news of West Virginia's statehood in 1863.
U.S. Sens. Jay Rockefeller and Joe Manchin are expected to kick start the celebration with Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin in Charleston this afternoon.
At her office, Secretary of State Natalie Tennant also plans to seal an iPhone and several other items in a time capsule that won't be reopened until 2063, the state's bicentennial.
In 1963, President John F. Kennedy spoke in Charleston during the state's 100th birthday celebration. His nephew, Mark Shriver Kennedy, is scheduled to speak during Wheeling's sesquicentennial celebration tonight. Shriver's appearance came at the invitation of West Virginia Senate President Jeff Kessler, D-Marshall.
In Harpers Ferry, a special naturalization ceremony will be held today for 20 people on the banks of the Shenandoah River. The newest U.S. citizens come from 16 countries.
The West Virginia Sesquicentennial Commission spent about $130,000 for its celebration plans, and the Legislature allocated an additional $200,000 for community celebrations statewide.
Commission executive director Chelsea Ruby said the greatest challenge at the Capitol was coordinating a vast number of workers and festival participants.
"We've got food vendors. We've got craft vendors,'' Ruby said. "We've got (Civil War) re-enactors. We've got people coming in to set up the stage. The audio. The lighting.''
Like a grand ol' party, it's one the state wants residents to remember for a long time.
"Hey West Virginia,'' country music star and Glen Dale native Brad Paisley said in a short video released by the state. "Happy 150th. Stay wild. Stay wonderful. You don't look a day over 120.''