Events Help Make Oglebay Unique

From Big Band dances to horseback riding camps, a smorgasbord of activities draws millions of people to Oglebay each year.  There are theater programs and concerts, flower and craft shows, golf and tennis tournaments, fishing rodeos, group picnics and day camps for economically-disadvantaged youth.  Many of these events are sponsored by community organizations and special interest groups, in cooperation with the Wheeling Park Commission.

Oglebay Institute, the oldest of the special interest groups, has provided cultural and educational programming since it incorporated in 1930.  As sponsors of a varied schedule of events: chamber music in the gardens to environmental education for school children, to one of the longest-running antique shows in the east, this cultural organization enriches the lives of visitors and area residents.

The Wheeling Civic Garden Center, whose program goes back to 1938, also has an important presence at Oglebay.  In 1963 the garden center moved into its present two-level brick building at the south end of the greenhouses.  Although the garden center is membership-based, most of its activities, such as flower arranging classes and gardening workshops, are open to the public. 

Several large-scale special events began in the 1970s and 80s.  The Wheeling Classic, a Ladies Professional Golf Association tournament, was first held in 1974 and continued for eleven years at the Speidel Golf Club. Oglebayfest began as a one-day event in 1978 to celebrate the park’s fiftieth birthday, but today, this resort-wide, 3-day festival featuring music, dancing, ethnic foods, crafts, a country fair, fireworks, and a parade, draws more than 100,000 people to Oglebay every year in October.

Oglebay’s Winter Festival of Lights debuted in 1985 with hundreds of thousands of lights displayed on trees, buildings, and landscape features over 125 acres.  Now, as this holiday light festival heads into its 26th year, it features a million lights covering more than three hundred acres over a six-mile drive throughout the resort.  More than 70 larger-than-life light displays are in this glowing show and every year something new is added to keep the show fresh.  As part of Oglebay’s Green Initiative, the commitment was made a few years ago to use energy-efficient LED lights in all new displays and to convert all existing displays to LED. LED lights use 85% less energy than traditional bulbs and last five times longer, ensuring that the Festival of Lights will continue to glow for another 26 years.

Bluebirds Find a Friend at Oglebay

Al Dague checks a bluebird box on an Oglebay golf course.

When Al Dague retired five years ago he found more time for his hobby of bird watching and the area bluebirds have benefitted from his retirement.

 “I took a Master Naturalist course at the Oglebay Good Zoo and became especially interested in bluebirds,” said Dague.  “I discovered there were bluebird boxes already located on the Crispin Golf Course at Oglebay but the staff did not have the time to take care of them.”

 Tony Coppa, Crispin Superintendent, was happy that Dague agreed to take on the bluebird boxes.  “We supplied a golf car so Al could monitor the boxes from April through August,” said Coppa.   That first year Dague had 40 successful birds and the project was expanded to the courses at the Speidel Golf Club at Oglebay.

 Oglebay supplied materials for the bluebird boxes and set the posts on the Jones and Palmer courses and Dague now cares for 46 boxes at Oglebay.  “We had 300 successful birds in 2010,” said Dague.  “It was warm in early April this past year so the birds nested early, with some producing three clutches this year.”  Bluebirds usually have two clutches per year.

 Dague builds all the bluebird boxes from scratch.  “I make them of untreated cedar which lasts five years or more, and the hole in the box is no larger than 1 ½” to prevent larger birds from entering,” said Dague.  “The bluebird boxes don’t have a perch – just grooves that the bluebirds can grip.”  Dague explained that no perch is another way to keep other birds away.

 “Sparrows are a threat to bluebird nests and raccoons will also destroy the eggs,” added Dague. 

 The boxes are placed six feet off the ground.  “I make my boxes with vent holes in the bottom so water can run out and vent holes in the top to prevent excessive heat,” said Dague.  “I include a door for easy cleaning and and I use a hand-held mirror to monitor what’s going on inside without disturbing the birds.”

Al Dague monitored 300 successful bluebirds in 2010.

Dague tracks when the birds build their nest, when the eggs hatch and when they fledge, and sends this information to the West Virginia Department of Natural Resources and to Cornell University.  Both parents raise the young, feeding them for two weeks.  Offspring of the first clutch will help feed the second clutch.

“They are not aggressive birds,” said Dague.  “They watch as I clean the boxes.”  The boxes have to be cleaned after every clutch.

Most bluebirds migrate to south Florida every year and return in the spring.  Dague said that the same birds return to Oglebay year after year but will nest in a different box.  He added that some birds may even switch boxes during the season for their next clutch.  A few bluebirds remain for the winter and will roost in the boxes.  “They are very compatible birds as six to eight birds will roost in one box to stay warm,” added Dague.

“The bluebird population is finally on the increase after damage from the DDT repellents used in the 1930s,” said Dague.  “In the summer the bluebird diet is 90% insects and 10% seeds to they help control the insect population.”  The bluebirds that stay for the winter will change their diet to 90% seeds and 10% insects.

Ricky Border, Palmer Course Superintendent at Oglebay is happy to help Dague.  “My goal is to have our courses certified by the National Audubon Society and Al is key to achieving that goal.”

Besides the boxes at Oglebay, Dague has boxes at Wheeling Park and on GC&P Road.  He said the boxes must be visited every week and it takes four hours to get to every box.  “It’s a labor of love.”