Winter Festival of Lights has begun

WHEELING – The Oglebay Winter Festival of Lights will continue through Jan. 5.

The festival began in 1985 with five light displays and landscape lighting covering about 125 acres over a three-mile drive through the resort. Since then, the show has grown to cover more than 300 acres over a six-mile drive with 80 light displays, including the new Christmas Tree Farm display.

Five years ago, the festival entered a new “green” era with the commitment to use energy-efficient LED lights in all new displays and to begin converting all existing displays to LED.

LED lights use 85 percent less energy than traditional bulbs and last five times longer.

“We want to ensure that the Winter Festival of Lights will be glowing for many more years,” said Caren Knoyer, marketing director. “For example, the animated Rocking Horse Display was first added to the Festival of Lights in 1992, using 85 amps of electricity with traditional light bulbs. Now that the display has been updated with vibrant LED lights, it uses just 12 amps of electricity.”

Every year, new displays are added and the placement of the existing displays change to keep the show fresh. Christmas Tree Farm, one of this year’s new displays, was the winner of last year’s Festival of Lights New Idea Contest.

“The winning entry was from seventh-grader Madison Zoladz,” said Knoyer. “Madison said she was inspired by the number of cars she saw during the holiday season carrying Christmas trees.”

This year’s other new displays are Woodpeckers and Leaping Frog, and the Oglebay Village has been expanded.

The Light and Music Extravaganza returns to the Good Zoo. The Light and Music Extravaganza takes place nightly on the zoo patio with more than 35,500 LED lights choreographed to holiday music. The zoo also will have their annual holiday model train display at the state’s largest O-gauge model train exhibit and holiday laser shows at the zoo’s Benedum Theater. Admission to the zoo is $9 for adults and $5.75 for children ages 3-12, and this admission includes the Light and Music Extravaganza on the zoo’s patio.

The Gardens of Light are located in the Oglebay hilltop and gardens area, and features 150 hanging baskets of light plus thousands of lighted flowers, trees and shrubs, accompanied by holiday music. Knoyer said the best way to enjoy the Gardens of Light is to take a stroll along the brick path that leads from Carriage House Glass to the Mansion Museum. The Mansion is the former summer home of the Oglebay family and is elegantly decorated for the holidays. The Christmas Shop is open only during the Festival of Lights and offers a large selection of one-of-a-kind decorations, ornaments and holiday collectibles.

The Christmas Tree Garden is just outside the visitors’ center. Introduced in 2003, the Christmas Tree Garden consists of 30 live trees decorated with colored lights. Situated in the center of the Christmas Tree Garden is the Nativity display. The life-size Nativity was designed and created by a local artist, and has been at the Winter Festival of Lights since 1985. The festival is open until 10 p.m. Sundays through Thursdays and until 11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. A per car donation is requested and is valid for entire festival season. Those making a $25 donation will receive a Festival of Lights DVD.

Narrated trolley tours will be available several times each evening, and there is a free app, available through the Apple App Store.