The Cinderella Story, December 1998 Photo: Mary Ann Compton
Festival of Lights at Oglebay Park
Created in 1985, the festival is the largest and
one of the most prestigious light shows in the country. Over one
million people per year, including 3000 tour buses from more than
36 states, visit this Wheeling park for the festival. Forty-two
displays and over one million lights spread over 300 acres are
featured in this celebration.
The festival grew out of the decision in 1980 of the
staff at Oglebay's Good Zoo to lavishly decorate with thousands of
holiday lights in the hope of attracting more winter visitors to
the 35-acre facility that had opened two years before. "The Good
Zoo Lights Up for You" event, bolstered by special holiday
laser-music shows in the zoo's adjoining Benedum Planetarium, made
a big difference in winter zoo attendance. Its success caught the
attention of park officials.
At the behest of Randolph Worls, CEO of the Wheeling
Park Commission, and several others from the West Virginia
Governor's Conference on Tourism, the park commission made a
commitment to expand the zoo lights show throughout the park in
1985. The first show, lasting less than four weeks, featured about
100,000 lights and fifteen displays over a three-mile drive and was
so successful that it drew 500,000 that first winter. By 1999, it
had grown to a show featuring over a million lights and forty-two
displays spread over 300 acres.
The commission hired world-renowned landscape
lighting expert Dick Bosch of Philips International from the
Netherlands to design winter lighting for Oglebay Park's trees and
buildings, a task made more difficult because the trees are bare
during the winter. The success of the light show also inspired
Wheeling residents and businesses to create their own new lighted
In 1986 the first animated displays appeared. By
1987, the show expanded, increasing the drive from three to six
miles. Displays are not restricted to Christmas themes, and there
are lighted images to delight all tastes -- including the
Cinderella Story, added in 1994, depicting six dapple-gray
festooned horses drawing an ornate Victorian carriage up a lighted
road going to the castle of the prince.
The Festival of Lights has provided an economic "shot
in the arm" for local businesses during the winter months, infusing
$25 million into the local economy. It also has made a deep
connection with Wheeling residents, as witnessed by the support
they have given the event over the years by erecting their own
decorations and displays as a way to enhance the festival.
Project documentation comprises an eight-page
narrative, ten slides with accompanying descriptions, facts about
the displays, a press release, a 10th anniversary program
(1995-96), and a video entitled Oglebay Winter Festival of
Lights, 1999-2000 edition.
Originally submitted by: Allan B. Mollohan, Representative (1st District).
The Local Legacies project provides a "snapshot" of American Culture as it was expressed in spring of 2000. Consequently, it is not being updated with new or revised information with the exception of "Related Website" links.