Romney, WV, celebrates its 250th anniversary in 2012, which makes it the oldest incorporated city in West Virginia … by just a few hours.
“Shepherdstown claims to be the oldest, too, but the Virginia House of Burgesses created Romney in the morning. Then they went to lunch and when they came back is when they created Shepherdstown,” said Romney Mayor Daniel Hileman.
To announce this grand news, a town crier dressed in period clothing began making appearances throughout the city in November 2010 to let people know about the year-long celebration the city was having for itself in honor of hitting the quarter-millennium mark.
Everyone has a role to play in the events from individuals to historical groups, churches, businesses, schools and the town government. The focus of the events will be during the week of June 17, which was a time when the Romney 250th Celebration Committee thought the weather would be pleasant to hold outdoor activities.
“Also, we thought it may be prudent to have it around West Virginia, which is June 20,” said Committee Secretary Marla Pisciotta.
Some of the events planned include living history talks, historic tours, a cruise in, sock hop, bonfire, re-enactors and the dedication of the Celebration Park. The big event of the week will be the Queen’s Ball on Saturday evening of wrap up the week’s events.
Other events planned for other times during the year include a courthouse debate, fireside chats and coronation of the 250th Celebration Queen. A fashion show featuring fashions throughout the history of Romney will be held in February. You will also find train rides, ghost tours, dances and parades.
“We will be producing a PBS television mini-series showcasing the birth of the City of Romney,” Pisciotta said.
All of these events are culmination of 2 ½ years of planning and talking with community members and organizations to see what could be done all with the goal of showing off Romney and its history.
Even after the celebration is done, visitors will still have a reminder of the city and its history in Celebration Park. The 36-foot wide and 327-foot long park will be dedicated on June 17, 2012.
“It will feature walkways of paved, personalized bricks with the names of families, loved ones, businesses or places,” said Pisciotta.
The park will be built on a parcel of land donated by the city and divided into different sections. The walkway will lead visitors to a serenity garden with water features, landscaped islands, Civil War memorial and time capsule, and veterans’ memorial plaza with service flags and plaques remembering Romney’s veterans.
Along the way, there will be plenty of seating for people to rest and take in the views the park offers.
To pay for the park construction and future maintenance, the Romney 250th Celebration Committee has been soliciting donations, but it will also be holding a variety of fundraisers throughout the year.
The engraved walkway bricks are one of the fundraisers for the park.
“In addition to selling bricks for Celebration Park, the committee will be selling calendars. Each page is a photograph of ‘old’ Romney and her people,” Pisciotta added.
Another fundraiser will be a commemorative book complete with photographs.
Local pen-and-ink artist Lou Mazzeo has donated 12 of his drawings of places in and around Romney to the committee to be reproduced on note cards that the committee will also be selling as a fundraiser. Charles Boland a local joiner is donating one of his Windsor chairs for the committee to auction off.
The goal of all this fundraising is not to have the city government have to use city revenues to pay for Celebration Park. After all, no one should have to pay for their own gifts on their birthday.
To stay up to date on the Romney 250th Celebration events, visit www.romney250celebration.com.
I originally wrote this story for Wonderful West Virginia Magazine. Check it out if you get a chance.