Delegating Denver #54 of #56: West Virginia

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West Virginia

Total Number of Delegates: 39 Pledged: 28 Unpledged: 11

How to Recognize a West Virginia Delegate: If a Sasquatch sighting is ever confirmed, it will no doubt happen in West Virginia. There already are rumors circulating that the state's governor, Joe Manchin III, is actually a shaved version of a yeti creature whose policies benefit only him and his Sasquatch cronies. As proof, detractors point to the severe lack of government economic incentives that perpetually forces college graduates to leave the state to find work, resulting in a 10 percent population loss since 1950. As a result, the only jobs available are in coal mines, where humans cannot see or disturb the Sasquatches!

Fewer people, however, means less development. This has left the state a remarkably beautiful landscape populated with residents who are friendly and sincere -- different from most Americans, who often mistake personable Mountaineer storytellers for liars in need of greater shopping opportunities and better TV reception down in the hollers. In truth it's little more than an honest attempt to keep company and perhaps make enough noise to scare those large fleeting creatures back into the trees.

Expect West Virginians to be the most talkative delegates in Denver. And not all of their stories will be detailed accounts of the events that transpired while squirrel hunting. Be prepared also for idyllic tales of childhood freedom, for all West Virginians have funny stories about how poor they were, the crazy things their families did to save money, and how long they had to wear underwear as outerwear during their growing years. However, during the convention, both male and female delegates will be wearing brand-new outfits purchased for $15 a bag during the July Sidewalk Sale Days at one of the eight Gabriel Brothers off-price retail stores located across the state.

Famous West Virginians: Revered Confederate general Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson; oilman Harry F. Sinclair; Discovery Channel founder John Hendricks; publicin tellectual Henry Louis Gates Jr.; writers Pearl S. Buck, John Knowles, Stephen Coonts, Ann Pancake, Breece D'J Pancake, Super Size Me documentarian Morgan Spurlock; TV character actors Don Knotts, Joyce DeWitt, John Corbett and Conchata Ferrell; musicians Hasil Adkins, Ann Magnuson (Bongwater), Kathy Mattea, Brad Paisley, Rachel Proctor, Crazy Horse's Frank Sampedro, Garnet Mimms, pop-punk band Scenes From a Movie and trash-metal band Byzantine; football coach Lou Holtz; gymnast Mary Lou Retton; Mother's Day inventor Anna Jarvis; Pentagon test pilot Chuck Yeager; Pentagon public-relations pawn Jessica Lynch.

Famous West Virginia Democrats: Longest-serving United States senator Robert C. Byrd; easily bought junior senator Jay Rockefeller; 57th United States Secretary of State Cyrus Vance; Iraqi bomb autographer Governor Joe Manchin III; Speaker of the House Richard Thompson; political hopeful and Kanawha County public defender Meshea Poore; friendly named Shirley D. Love, John Pat Fanning and Bob S. Kiss; 2006 Miss West Virginia and current 58th district candidate Tiffany Lawrence.

Famous West Virginians With Denver Connections: 1977 Miss West Virginia Patricia Ann "Patsy" Ramsey; astrologer Linda Goodman; former Denver Nuggets coach Mike D'Antoni; National Western Stock Show judge Richard McClung; Garmin Chipotle professional cycling team member Will Frischkorn; Broadmoor Spa youth fitness director Paul Massullo.

State Nickname: The Mountain State, Almost Heaven, (official); Incest Virginia, Almost Level, the Mountaintop Removal State (unofficial) Population: 1,818,470 Racial Distribution: 95% white, 3% black, 1% Asian, 1% Hispanic Per Capita Personal Income: $24,379 Unemployment: 6%


Most West Virginian Denver Neighborhood: Elyria/Swansea

Most West Virginian Bar: Skylark Lounge 140 South Broadway Denver's rockabilly home. Where eyeliner, sideburns, vintage pool tables, live music and a swingin' jukebox are celebrated, with and without the least bit of irony.

Most West Virginian Restaurant: Buckhorn Exchange 1000 Osage Street West Virginia delegates are a long way from wild ramps and pepperoni rolls, but Denver's oldest restaurant (since 1893!) serves pot roast sandwiches, grilled elk, roasted quail and a hot Dutch apple pie that will taste like a day at the Meatbox picnic area in the Kumbrabow State Forest.

Best Day Trip: Rocky Mountain National Park

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West Virginia is like Colorado's identical twin sister who lives back east. Both states like to brag about their height -- West Virginia's mean elevation of 1,500 feet makes her the highest state east of the Mississippi; Colorado's, 6,800 feet, makes her the highest state in the nation – and both use their above-average height as proof that they are superior to all the other states. The Mountain State and Centennial State are extremely pretty, and both use their big mountains to attract hikers, mountain bikers, fishermen, snowboarders and whitewater rafters. That is how the two states fell in love with the same Nature Boy back in the 1970s. John Denver, the Muppet-folker who won the grandmother stamp of approval for hippie haircuts, scored back-to-back hits with "Take Me Home, Country Roads" and "Rocky Mountain High."

In time, both states came to believe that these were the love songs that literally put them on the map. In an effort to show their appreciation of Denver (albeit a decade after his death), both West Virginia and Colorado moved to recognize the tunes as their respective state songs in 2007. That's when it was revealed that Nature Boy had never even been to West Virginia when the "Almost heaven, West Virginia..." lyrics were written. The friendly Denver competition ended when Colorado was wedded to Nature Boy, for better or for worse, by accepting “Rocky Mountain High” as its the official state song.

West Virginia mountain mamas and the rest of the state's delegates can still hear his voice in the mornin' hour, during a trip to Rocky Mountain National Park. To get there, ask the hotel concierge for directions onto 1-25 north. Drive 45 miles and take exit 257 onto westbound U.S. Highway 34 toward Loveland. The highways of this route are no longer country roads that will remind you of your home far away, but this is the quickest route up to Trail Ridge Road, the highest paved continuous highway in the country. At the visitor center at 12,183 feet, it will become obvious why Nature Boy loved Colorado. From way up here above timberline, where it rains fire in the sky (and everybody's high), life no longer feels older than the trees. -- Kenny Be

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