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Turning on the lights at Oglebay

SOCIALLY DISTANCED FUN — Oglebay Park’s Winter Festival of Lights offers the chance for families throughout the Ohio Valley to enjoy a safe, socially distant excursion during the Thanksgiving holiday weekend. (Contributed photo)

WHEELING — Oglebay Park’s 35th annual Winter Festival of Lights offers a great option for families looking for a fun — and safe — activity following that Thanksgiving Day dinner.

As the park kicked off its 35th annual Winter Festival of Lights “Sounds Of The Season” on Nov. 5, Oglebay Senior Vice President Rod Haley said this year’s festival provides area families the opportunity to do something fun where they can socially distance themselves from crowds if they choose.

While Thanksgiving night has not traditionally been one of the park’s higher “car count” nights during the run of the festival, Haley said it can be a nice family experience on Thanksgiving night or any night throughout the entire run of the festival.

“One of the things we tell everybody is, the Festival of Lights is the perfect social distancing event if you want it to be,” Haley said. “You just get in your own car and you drive through the lights and you can be secluded as you want, or you can certainly get out and visit the shops and visit the activities center already set up for social distancing.”

“You can do as little or as much as you want,” he added. “We love all the guests coming through,” he added.

Haley said the biggest attraction of the light festival this year is the addition of the “Sounds of the Season.”

As part of this year’s “Sounds of the Season” event, speakers have been placed alongside 12 of the most popular displays at the park, providing visitors the opportunity to hear music coordinated with those particular displays.

During the opening night of the festival, Oglebay Foundation president and CEO Eriks Janelsins said, “This year, we’re highlighting the power of music.”

They can hear tunes from the Charlie Brown Christmas special as they pass the “Peanuts” display, or listen to music from the “Jurassic Park” movie while passing the lighted dinosaur display.

The “Twelve Days of Christmas” display is accompanied by the sounds of the well-known Christmas carol. Also new this year is an animated “Magical Mansion” light show outside the Oglebay Mansion.

In addition, Haley said they’ve added a “Santa’s workshop” display down on the park’s zoo patio.

“We have character meet and greets and we have snow machines down there for your nightly winter snow,” he added.

The Festival of Lights, which has illuminated the historic park since 1985, has grown into one of the nation’s largest holiday light shows, attracting more than 1 million visitors each year.

The light show, which features more than 1 million LED lights incorporated in nearly 90 displays and trees that cover 300-plus acres over a six-mile drive through Oglebay Park, will be held nightly until 11 p.m. through Jan. 10.

Haley said while they encourage folks to visit the light festival anytime throughout the run of the festival, weekday nights are generally less busy than weekends for those who are looking to avoid higher traffic volumes.

(McCloskey can be contacted at smccloskey@theintelligencer.net)

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