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Theme of upcoming Tomblin inauguration is ''West Virginia First''

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Organizers hope West Virginia's upcoming inauguration ceremony and related festivities will be all about the Mountain State.

"West Virginia First" is the theme for Jan. 14, when Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin will take his oath after winning a full term as the state's chief executive.

"Gov. Tomblin wanted to highlight that which we all know about West Virginians is that they put West Virginia first," spokeswoman Amy Shuler Goodwin said in a statement.

The 1 p.m. inaugural ceremony is scheduled for the south steps of the state Capitol. Public parking options include metered spaces in the northwestern corner of the campus, just off Interstate 64/77.

While the weather forecast is for temperatures in the high 40s and a 30 percent chance of scattered showers, those wishing to stay indoors can catch the ceremony online via the governor's website. Planning also includes satellite access for TV broadcasts.

The five other statewide executive branch officers elected Nov. 6 will also be sworn in during the ceremony. They include two newcomers: Republican Patrick Morrisey as attorney general and state Sen. Walt Helmick, a Democrat, as agriculture commissioner. A public reception and receiving line will follow in the Great Hall of the nearby Culture Center.

A 7 p.m., black-tie-optional gala will close out the day's events. Usually held at the Civic Center, this inaugural ball is slated for the Clay Center in downtown Charleston. The Clay Center features an 1,883-seat performance hall, a theater that can seat up to 200, art galleries and a science museum, and organizers plan to use much of the facility's 240,000 square feet.

Ten musical acts from around the state will be playing throughout the center, according to organizers. Besides the West Virginia Symphony Brass Quintet, two hail from Charleston: the Ryan Kennedy Trio and jazz pianist Bob Thompson. Organizers have also invited fiddler Adam DeGraff of Lewisburg; Grafton's Taylor Made; Matt Jones and the Road from Beckley; the Soul Miners of Morgantown; the Davisson Brothers from Clarksburg; Huntington's City Heat; and the Street Players from Tomblin's native Logan County.

"Having grown up in the Mountain State, Gov. Tomblin also wanted to showcase some of our greatest musical talent throughout the state," Goodwin said.

Goodwin said the gala's menu will also feature West Virginia favorites. With the ball limited to 2,000 tickets, around 500 will be available to the public at $75 each through the Clay Center box office.

Next Monday will mark Tomblin's second inauguration in as many years. He narrowly won a 2011 special election to finish the term of now-U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin. Around 1,000 people attended that ceremony, held on a warm, breezy, cloudless November afternoon.

But Tomblin also took part in a scaled-down version of an inauguration in November 2010, one day after Manchin resigned as governor to take the Senate seat that the fellow Democrat won in a special election that month.

The West Virginia Constitution calls on the Senate president -- Tomblin had held that post for a record 15 years when Manchin stepped down -- to act as governor upon such vacancies. The 2010 event was termed an investiture, featured a special oath crafted for the occasion and was held in the grand foyer of the state Capitol outside the Senate Chamber.

The Capitol also hosted an inaugural ceremony in 2009, with Manchin taking the oath to begin his second term as governor. That inauguration was held on the north steps, amid severe winter weather and snow that prevented several high school bands from making the trip to participate.

That and other recent West Virginia inaugural ceremonies had incorporated activities arising from Martin Luther King Jr. Day, particularly a morning parade with a route that has ended at the Capitol by way of Kanawha Boulevard. But with the holiday falling on Jan. 21, that won't happen this year. The state constitution sets the date of the inauguration, as the first Monday after the second Wednesday of the January following the election.

A special committee raises funds for the inaugural ball and related festivities. A private reception for sponsors is scheduled for Sunday evening at the Culture Center. It will feature a private concert with Landau Eugene Murphy Jr., the 2011 winner of "America's Got Talent" who, like Tomblin, is a Logan County native. Goodwin did not have an estimate Friday on the amount raised by the committee.

Online: W.Va. Governor's office: www.governor.wv.gov

Clay Center box office: (304)-561-3570.


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