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Did you know about West Virginia’s deep Italian heritage?

The West Virginia Italian Heritage Festival is one of the largest and most widely known annual events in the state. The event has been taking place for 40 years and draws many to Clarksburg to celebrate the rich history of Italians in the Mountain State. Each year, people from across the state congregate for these festivals, but many of them are unaware of the rich history of Italians in Almost Heaven.

In the early 1900s, there was an influx of Italian immigrants making their way to West Virginia. Many of them were escaping conditions in the sulfur mining industry. They came from many different regions of Italy, but most of the immigrants hailed from the southern regions of Campania, Calabria, and Sicily. The immigrant population spread predominantly across seven regions of the state: Marion County, Harrison County, Tucker County, Randolph County, Preston County, Monongalia County, and McDowell County. Most of the immigrants quickly found work in West Virginia’s booming coal industry as miners. They relied on hard work and determination, and quickly gained economic progress and acceptance in the Mountain State. As the years passed and more Italians made their way to West Virginia, Italians became even more occupationally diverse. Many became carpenters, blacksmiths, shoemakers, stone masons and laborers.

It was common for Italian coal miners to take sticks of pepperoni and bread into the mines with them for their long days, and eventually some began to bake the pepperoni into the bread. Restaurants in Fairmont are most commonly credited with commercializing pepperoni rolls, and today, they are the official State Food of West Virginia.

We can thank Italian immigrants for much of the growth of West Virginia. Their hard work and determination embodies the spirit of West Virginia. Today, we celebrate this heritage and history with the West Virginia Italian Heritage Festival in Clarksburg. However, celebrations in cities like Bluefield, Wheeling, and Princeton also commemorate the heritage of Italian immigrants in Almost Heaven.

Have you attended an Italian heritage festival in the Mountain State?

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