It seems like Oglebay Park has always been a part of my life.
I came to Wheeling for the first time in May of 1983. I was working as a summer clerk for Jim Bordas. Jim owned a trailer park near West Liberty and I lived in one of the trailers until I returned to the school in the fall. Every day I drove to work on Bethany Pike, passing through Oglebay Park. It was exhilarating! The park was always lush and green. Its grounds were always perfectly manicured and it seemed like you could see for miles over the gently rolling hills. I was especially impressed by the mansion, sitting above the roadway with its majestic portico and pillars.
In March, 1991, I joined Bordas & Bordas and moved to Wheeling on a fulltime basis. Oglebay Park was back in my sights. Even as we were in the process of house hunting, everybody asked us the same question: "Have you gotten your zoo pass yet?" My wife began joking that a zoo pass must be mandatory. Well, okay, maybe not mandatory, but I've come to learn that it's a very good idea to have one--especially if you have children. Through the years, our girls have been to Oglebay's zoo countless times and have also enjoyed zoo camp in the summer. We've also been able to help out newcomers to the city by sharing guest passes to the zoo to make their visit a little more enjoyable.
My girls also learned horseback riding at the park. Oglebay's stables offer public and private lessons, trail rides, and summer camps. I remember watching my girls, decked out in all of their gear, putting the horse they were riding ("Nibbles," I think) through its paces. I'll always treasure those memories.
Even as my girls got older, the park provided great opportunities. In many ways it was our extended "back yard." The girls, along with their friends, would walk, run and play in the park. I've heard stories of some pretty exciting games of "capture the flag" played in the park, especially after dark. As they grew up and entered adulthood, the park served as a venue for some of their most significant rites of passage. Both girls had their high school graduation parties there. My older daughter, Jayme, got married five years ago and we chose Oglebay as the site for the wedding reception. Levenson Shelter was a perfect place to share a perfect day with family and friends!
Through the years we've always taken advantage of the park's Christmas lights extravaganza, better known as the Festival of Lights. In fact, my wife worked at the park for a few years, including a stint as a guide for the tour buses. My wife can tell you anything you want to know about the park and any of the light displays. Is this display new or old? Who made it? How many lights does it have? I don't have the slightest idea, but my wife--the seasoned tour guide--still knows all of the answers.
Another favorite of ours at the park is Oglebayfest. I'm a Randolph County native, so I grew up attending the Forest Festival every year. It was nice having a festival close to home that we could enjoy as our girls were growing up. My wife likes to go through the booths, especially the woodcarvers, painters and other craftsman. I go for the food. Every year I make my pilgrimage so I can have a giant steak hoagie and a pile of home style grilled potatoes. That's worth the trip! The one thing my wife and I both enjoy during Oglebayfest is the opportunity to walk together through the park and to reconnect with many of our friends who are doing the same thing.
Yes, I'm a big fan of Oglebay Park. I know that my girls are too. Now that I'm a grandfather, I guess it's my job to introduce the next generation to everything the park has to offer!