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Festival of Lights: A valley tradition

November 8, 2013
By J.W. JOHNSON JR - For The Times Leader , Times Leader

WHEELING - After 28 years, the Winter Festival of Lights at Oglebay Park is more than just an annual display.

Wheeling Park Commission President and CEO Doug Dalby sees that firsthand every year.

"It's really become a tradition," he said. "People who used to come with their parents are now coming with their children."

Article Photos

THE OGLEBAY Park Winter Festival of Lights officially kicked off Thursday evening at Oglebay Park. Flipping the light switch were, from left, Bill Jones, Ron Hobbs, Sue Farnsworth, Madison Zoladz, Joan Stamp, Dr. Donald Hofreuter and Douglas Dalby. Zoladz was the winner of last year’s Festival of Lights New Idea Contest, and her design “Christmas Tree Farm” is one of three new displays this year. The Festival of Lights begins today and runs through Jan. 5, 2014.

That tradition kicked off with a bang Thursday, as members of the Park Commission and Triadelphia Middle School student Madison Zoladz threw the switch to officially open the Festival of Lights for the holiday season.

Zoladz designed one of the three new displays, a Christmas tree farm. Dalby said Zoladz's design was chosen by a committee that reviewed ideas submitted by area students.

Zoladz said she developed the idea with her sister, Morgan, after seeing a neighbor's truck carrying Christmas trees. She flipped the switch to turn on the lights Thursday, setting off a fireworks display.

Other new displays include woodpeckers and a leaping frog display, as well as an expanded Oglebay Village. Those displays join familiar favorites, such as the Garden of Lights and the Light and Music Extravaganza.

For new park commissioner Joan Stamp, Thursday's event was her first since taking over in an official capacity. She said while she has attended previous light up night ceremonies, this was the first time she helped flip the switch.

"This is a very special evening, and I'm very honored to be a part of it" she said.

Stamp replaced Roland "Ron" Hobbs, who retired from the commission earlier this year after 41 years. He also participated in Thursday's ceremony.

Meanwhile, Dalby said Oglebay has booked more rooms for the season so far this year compared to this time last year. He said visitors to the park for the light display are typically half returning individuals and half new. Both new and returning guests this year can experience the tour in a new way, as Oglebay Park recently developed an iPhone and iPad app that gives a guided audio tour of the light displays.

The Winter Festival of Lights is open through Jan. 5. It begins at dusk and lasts until 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, and until 11 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. There is no admission, though a donation is requested.



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