Hundreds of thousands of people come to experience the Festival of Lights every year.
And that equates to an estimated $14 million to the Ohio Valley.
“It’s one of the most significant tourism drivers in our area,” noted Frank O’Brien, executive director of the Wheeling Convention and Visitors Bureau. “When thousands of people come, they leave a lot of economic impact on the community.”
“We have a lot of our guests that stay on property here in our lodge and in our cottages,” said Rod Haley, executive vice president of Oglebay Resort. “And they also stay in local hotels and at the Highlands and in different areas of St. Clairsville. So it just drives the economy locally.”
It lasts only 55 days, but it’s their busiest season of the year.
It has become an annual destination and tradition for families.
“We’ve been doing it since 1985 and we’re into the third generation for a lot of families,” said Haley. “It’s just really a neat experience to bring your family up and drive through the lights. Some of them are local and drive through, while others come down for the day from other places, and still others come for two or three days. But you always know when it’s Festival of Lights time because you see Sheetz and the different restaurants being so busy. It’s exciting and it’s fun.”
And they make an effort to re-invent the light show every year.
“That’s key,” said Frank O’Brien. “And with this whole new program of three-dimensional lights and special viewing glasses, I’m excited. I think it’s going to attract a whole new demographic of people.”