Happy 200th Birthday Pocahontas County — A Bicentennial Celebration Preview

By Michael Moore 

Birthdays are a curious affair.  It seems to me, the significance of them undergoes a bit of a metamorphosis as the number of them we experience increases proportionally with our advancing years. Once we’ve moved on from the inaugural highchair celebration of happily placing more birthday cake on our face than in it, and with hopefully 70 or 80 birthdays yet to celebrate, the joyous occasion cannot come soon enough. We eagerly count down the days until the birthday spotlight is turned to shine on us. The promise of brightly wrapped gifts, a decorated cake set ablaze with candles in our honor, and a gathering of family and friends to commemorate the day we burst forth into this world, is almost too much excitement for our prepubescent minds to endure. And despite the fact we are then expected to wait 364 days to do it all over again, we love those first dozen or so birthdays.

Later as we reach midlife, arriving at an equal number of birthdays behind us as are yet to come, the notion of celebrating seems to dim. Perhaps after forty or fifty birthdays, we just don’t see the point – that, or we’re genuinely concerned the number of burning candles our cake holds could be deemed by a court of law legally responsible for a severe structure fire. Whatever the reason, by middle age birthdays, seem to lose their appeal.  

And finally, if we have been blessed to reach our golden years — that time in life when we are once again in diapers and fed by others — birthdays take on a whole new meaning. They are applauded as milestones of longevity, and we seem to once again find the joy and excitement in them; perhaps not so much for the anticipation of the next birthday, but more for the thrill of having made it another year to enjoy the current birthday. I can still recall one of my grandmother’s final birthdays. Having reached her early nineties and celebrating the day with family, she was offered her choice of a slice of pizza or a slice of birthday cake, to which she let us know in no uncertain terms she wanted both. Now that’s someone celebrating a birthday. 

Whether you favor birthdays or rather they be forgotten, one thing I think we can all agree on is birthdays are a special event that happens only once. You’ll never have another sweet sixteen, thirtieth, sixtieth, or ninety-ninth birthday. And just as birthdays mark the passage of time in our lives, they can also serve to memorialize the age of a town, state, or even a country. Here in the United States, for example, we celebrated our nation’s bicentennial (or 200th birthday, the meaning of bicentennial) in 1976. Now here’s where a little Pocahontas County, West Virginia history enters the story. As fate would have it, December 2021, marked the 200th birthday of our fair county. But in our minds, a one-day town celebration seems to fall a little short for such an awesome place like Pocahontas County. So, here in Nature’s Mountain Playground, we’re going big. What makes our birthday celebration different from a town bicentennial ceremony or festival slated for a single day, is we’re celebrating county-wide, all summer long and we’d love for you to join us. That’s right. We’ve extended the celebration way beyond the month of December to give you an opportunity to join us in a variety of ways throughout 2022. This is your chance to say, “Happy Birthday Pocahontas County!” So, grab your calendar, open that day planner and get ready to pick some dates to celebrate with us, because this birthday, like all birthdays, is only happing once and you don’t want to miss it. Here’s a quick rundown of the remaining, upcoming events and festivals of the Pocahontas County bicentennial celebration.

CASS DAYS June 17-19, 2022 

Come join the good folks of Cass for “Cass Days” as they celebrate the history and family fun of the Cass Scenic Railroad State Park. That’s right. The entire town of Cass is a state park, dedicated to preserving and sharing the colorful history of the early West Virginia timber industry. The fun kicks off Friday night at 5:30 with live music, followed by a cake walk at 6:30. The festivities get underway again Saturday morning with arts and eats street fair from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and at 10:00 a.m. with tours of the Cass steam locomotives. Live music will begin again from 1:00 p.m. through 5:00 p.m. and the evening will round out with dancing from 7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. For further information check out the Cass Scenic Railroad State Park Facebook page.

Pearl S. Buck “History Alive” Performance June 25 and September 10, 2022 

Watch history come alive with a visit to the Peal S. Buck birthplace in Hillsboro as Missy McCollam portrays missionary and author, Pearl S. Buck. Join the Pulitzer Prize-winning author on June 25, 2022, from 2:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. and again on September 10, 2022, from 2:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m., to learn about Buck’s life as a novelist, missionary, and humanitarian. History presented through a first-person interpreter seldom fails to make a powerful and lasting impact on those witnessing it. Don’t miss this unique opportunity to be part of a truly priceless piece of Pocahontas County history come alive. For more information contact the Pearl S. Buck birthplace at (304) 653-4430.  

Ann Bailey Trail – Workman Cabin Bicentennial Hike July 2, 2022 

Keeping with the theme of historic sites in West Virginia, how about celebrating our bicentennial with a day hike in Watoga State Park? Beginning at the Ann Bailey Trail parking lot, your destination will be the 1887 cabin site of Andrew Jackson Workman, whose family occupied the cabin until 1912. This moderate hike is estimated to take an hour one way (with three to four hours allotted for the entire trip) and will be led by the great-grandson of Andrew Workman. Upon arriving at the cabin, visitors will have time to explore the grounds as well as the family cemetery. Bring your lunch and prepare to immerse yourself in some good, old-fashioned frontier history of Pocahontas County. Contact Watoga State Park at (304) 799-4087 for more information.

The Ballad of Cass Drama July 16-24, 2022 

This summer park your car at Cass and put on your walking shoes for the outdoor, promenade presentation of “The Ballad of Cass”. Missy McCullum has penned an adaptation of “Cass: The Play” by former Cass resident and playwright, Nicolette Maleckar, which portrays the residents and events of Cass during the turn of the 20th century. Presented at different sites throughout the town, guests will travel in small groups to observe and participate in short vignettes. The play will highlight the social changes brought about by the railroad and lumber industries as they moved into the Appalachia region.  Performances are currently scheduled for Saturdays, July 16 and 23, with matinees at 2:00 p.m. and evening shows at 6:00 p.m. and Sundays July 17 and 24, with matinees at 2:00 p.m. only. For further information check out the Cass Scenic Railroad State Park Facebook page.

Autumn Harvest Festival and West Virginia Roadkill Cook-off September 24, 2022  

Well, it wouldn’t be a party in Pocahontas County if we didn’t mention the Autumn Harvest Festival and West Virginia Roadkill Cook-off. After a two-year interval, this West Virginia festival is back in full force. Come with a good sense of humor and a hearty appetite and join us for a real slice of West Virginia history that’s been the fall highlight of Nature’s Mountain Playground for over thirty years. Mountain music will fill the air and some of the best (if not strangest named) dishes will fill your belly as cooks from all around the area compete in the good-natured cook-off. Stroll the main street of Marlinton as you sample culinary “roadkill” delights, shop from a variety of local artisans, and then cast your vote for the roadkill champion of 2022.  

Huntersville Traditions Day: Pocahontas County Bicentennial Birthday Celebration September 30 – October 1, 2022 

Sponsored by the Huntersville Historical Traditions and Pocahontas County Bicentennial Commission, join us in celebrating 200 years of heritage and history during the annual festival in Huntersville, the original county seat of Pocahontas County. Step back in time with us as we demonstrate and celebrate the heritage and skills that were a fundamental part of life in Pocahontas County 200 years ago. And once you’ve gained an appreciation for life on the frontier, join us for a birthday celebration with cake, a hunter’s feast, demonstrations, tours, food and music Friday evening and all-day Saturday. There’s no better way to cap off our county-wide bicentennial celebration.

As I said, birthdays are a curious affair. You may eagerly await each one you’re blessed to have, or you may prefer them to slip by unnoticed. Either is okay. But no matter how you choose to view them, birthdays are a special, unrepeatable event. And here in Pocahontas County, we’re pretty excited about our 200th birthday. It’s the only one we’ll have, and we would love for you to come to celebrate with us.  So happy 200th birthday Pocahontas County — you look great!