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Inaugural Tradition Rekindled

It began on March 4, 1897, when an open carriage drawn by four bay horses pulled up to the large porch of the grand Victorian-style Ruffner Hotel on Kanawha Street in Charleston. George Wesley Atkinson, who within minutes would become West Virginia's 10th governor, emerged from the hotel and got into the carriage. A drum and bugle corps marched in front of the carriage as it turned down Capitol Street for the three-block ride to Capitol Square.

News reports of the time noted that more than 7,000 nonresidents of Charleston squeezed into the city just days after Capitol Street had been flooded by the Kanawha River to see that first gubernatorial inaugural parade that ended at the Victorian-style Capitol, located at what is now the intersection of Lee and Capitol streets.

Joe & Gayle Manchin interact with spectators during the parade

Inaugural parades continued pretty much every four years afterward Hulett Smith's was canceled in 1965 because of snow until after Arch A. Moore's second term in 1973. For some reason, no one has hosted a parade in the 32 years since.

The traditional parade made its return on January 17, 2005 in one of Charleston's largest parades. Despite a day that dawned at 11 degrees, the parade to honor West Virginia's new governor went on almost as planned. Thirty-five high school marching bands lined up at 10 a.m. on Kanawha Boulevard, facing the Capitol. But a last-minute shortening of the parade route by several blocks, followed by a command to move all bands into the eastbound lane, left hundreds of instrument-toting teenagers inventing ways to keep warm as they waited for things to get underway.

The Busy Bee Band & Honeybees coming down Kanawha Boulevard

Joining Marion County native, Governor Joe Manchin and his wife Gayle, were several other state officials including Senator Jay Rockefeller, Representative Alan Mollahan, Representative Shelly Capito, Secretary of State Betty Ireland and Supreme Court Justice Brent Benjamin. The East Fairmont Busy Bee Band & Honeybees were joined by North Marion in representing the Governor's home county and high school bands from all over the state made the trip for the historic event. West Virginia University and Marshall University were also present for the event.

*Click picture for enlarged version

 

 

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