Labor Day Weekend Action Not Over Yet
The Labor Day weekend action continues today with more racing on the Ohio River in Wheeling another battle reenactment at Oglebay Park.
People came from as far as New York and beyond to take part in the annual Fort Henry Days at Oglebay Park. And Ohio Valley residents also took part in the annual Wheeling Vintage Raceboat Regatta that roared on the river at Heritage Port in downtown Wheeling.
Fort Henry Days continues from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. today and the regatta continues through 1:30-5 p.m. today.
At Oglebay, men wearing tricorns and firing muskets stood alongside women in petticoats and Native American reenactors with skin painted red for the sake of getting together and educating visitors about the history of Wheeling.
At 2 p.m. the reenactment took place around the temporary replica of Fort Henry at Oglebay’s Site One. Another reenactment is slated for 3 p.m. today. More than 150 reenactors played frontiersmen, English loyalists and Native Americans. R. Noel Foreman coordinated the event.
“This year’s event has been wonderful,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of people camping. The battle ought to be good.”
Among new features this year are a number of additional sutlers for period wares, and a special play being performed today about the presence of Jesuits in the Ohio Valley during the Seven Years War and the American Revolution.
On hand to assist with security and errands were the Young Marines. Providing narrations for the reenactment of the battle were Ohio County Magistrate Joe Roxby and Earl Forman.
Roxby mentioned that Sept. 11, 2012, marks 235 years since the first siege of Fort Henry in 1777.
“It was Wheeling’s own September 11,” he said.
The battle represented Saturday was the second siege in 1782.
“It is a very accurate reenactment,” said Forman.
He mentioned while the battle certainly shows people the intensity of battle and the legends of Wheeling’s history, there was nothing glamorous about either the battle or the devastation faced afterward.
”It was not an adventure for the people who lived it. It was much more devastating than people know,” he said.
As the Natives and Crown fighters attacked the fort, they had destroyed everything in their path. Since the attack occurred in September, that meant a long winter for the residents. “But in the end,” said Forman, “they came out with their lives, freedom, and hope for the future.”
Allen Spencer was among the Native reenactors. He said the number of reenactors seemed to be lower this year, and attributed that to the War of 1812 reenactments also occurring this year. Still, he said the audience seemed much larger this year and that their reaction was very positive. During the famous “Betty Zane Run,” during which a young settler woman ran gunpowder back and forth to resupply the fort while under fire, he noticed a cheer went up among the audience as though they were seeing a touchdown at a football game.
Among the visitors this year were Barbara and Mark Himpelman, who have come before and returned this year because they enjoyed it so much. “I’m amazed at the way these people get it so authentic,” she said. “We love stuff like this.”
Many of the reenactors come as a family to the event each year. Kate and Bryan Cunning were two such people. Bryan Cunning said that while he does different events, Fort Henry Days is always special.
“If you want to see a spectacle,” he said. “Go see Fort Henry Days. It’s as close to real as you’re going to get.”
Kate Cunning called it a “wonderful time.”
“Oglebay takes good care of us,” she added.
Also taking place at Oglebay was the Woodcarvers Sale and Show at the Pine Room, run by the Oglebay Woodcarvers Guild. Each year, the show gives local woodcrafting artisans a chance to display and sell their work in a public setting with other woodcutters.
Among the woodcutters was Jeff Roscoe, who creates his sculptures with a chainsaw. Roscoe said many of the artists bring in pieces that they have been creating all year. “I think the turnout was a little down from last year,” he said, “but (the reception) was still pretty nice.”
Meanwhile, at Heritage Port, Wheeling residents Debbie Lennox, mother Maureen Barse and grandson Kaden Lennox, 8, watched as the vintage raceboats roared around a course set on the Ohio River.
Kaden, at first, thought the boats were too loud, but later said he was enjoying the spectacle.
”This is our first time – it’s pretty cool so far,” Debbie Lennox said.
St. Clairsville resident Austin Dabrowski said he enjoyed the event’s loudness. He was accompanied by his son Sean, 13, and cousin Levi.
”Anything that goes that fast and is that loud I would do,” Dabrowski said of getting the chance to race the boats that reach speeds up to 120 mph.
Regatta Director Debbie Joseph said Saturday’s demonstrations went well and without any incidents.
”It was a great day with safe heats. … We’re ready to do it all again” today, she said.