WHEELING - The granddaddy of yuletide light shows is under way in Wheeling, the 27th annual Winter Festival of Lights at Oglebay Park.
"Please come up and enjoy the lights," said J. Douglas Dalby, Wheeling Park Commission president and chief executive officer.
November and December are Oglebay's busiest months of the year because the festival is among the largest holiday light shows in the nation, Dalby said. Half of those who come to the park during the holiday season are first-time visitors, he said.
A popular lighting with children is the prehistoric scene featuring dinosaurs at the Winter Festival of Lights in Wheeling. The show begins at dusk each day. (Photo Provided)
The park strives to make the festival appealing to first-time visitors and those who have seen the lights many times, Oglebay Marketing Director Caren Knoyer said.
"We go out of our way to make it fresh," Knoyer said.
In addition to new displays, existing displays are moved around to help make the driving tour different from year to year, she said.
"We talk to people when they're here to find out what they'd like to see," Knoyer said.
The annual display design contest gives residents a feeling of ownership when they see the lights, she said. Entries should be on a poster board with name, age, address, phone number and email printed on the back and delivered to the Good Zoo office by Jan. 6 when the festival ends. Complete contest rules are available on the Oglebay website at oglebay-resort.com/fol.htm.
Through the park's partnership with Wheeling Park High School, many students have helped work on the displays over the years, Knoyer said.
"We have boys who welded the displays bringing their own children to see the lights years later," she said, adding that the former Patriots can proudly point out to their children the pieces they helped create.
Seventy-eight lighting arrays are on display. Organizers have converted all the lights to energy-efficient LEDs a year ahead of schedule.
Oglebay is located 3 miles from I-70 off Exit 2A in Wheeling.
Attendance numbers are unavailable because admission isn't charged, Knoyer said.
"It appears to be about the same as previous years," she said.
Four years ago, festival organizers committed to using LED lights in new displays while converting existing ones within five years. LEDs use 85 percent less energy than conventional bulbs and last five times longer, Knoyer said.
When the animated Rocking Horse Display was added in 1992, it used 85 amps of electricity with traditional light bulbs, Knoyer said. With the more vibrant LEDs, the display uses 12 amps of electricity, she said.
"We want to ensure that the Winter Festival of Lights will be glowing for many more years," Knoyer said.
New displays this year include a new amusement park-themed Strong Man next to the Ferris Wheel and Carousel, a Leaping Frog display and an animated Volcano added to the popular Dinosaur Dell display.
The Winter Festival of Lights began in 1985 with five light displays and landscape lighting covering about 125 acres over a 3-mile drive throughout the resort, Knoyer said. The show has grown to more than 300 acres over a 6-mile drive.
In addition to the displays along the driving tour, the festival features the Gardens of Light in the hilltop and gardens area with 150 hanging baskets of light plus thousands of lighted flowers, trees and shrubs, combined with distinctive holiday music.
The best way to enjoy the Gardens of Light is to stroll along the brick path that leads from Carriage House Glass to the Mansion Museum, Knoyer said. Because of numerous requests, a CD with the Gardens of Light music is available at the gift shop this year, she said.
The Light and Music Extravaganza at the Good Zoo is "better than ever this year" with new music, new choreography and more lights, Knoyer said. The extravaganza takes place nightly on the zoo patio with more than 35,500 LED lights choreographed to holiday music.
The Winter Festival of Lights is from dusk to 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and from dusk to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
A per-car donation is requested and is valid for the entire festival season.
Trolley tours are offered several times each night beginning at Wilson Lodge. For more information about Oglebay and the Winter Festival of Lights, call 800-624-6988 or 304-243-4000.