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.