Festivities From Park to Port

WHEELING – As rain clouds departed Saturday morning, the Labor Day holiday weekend kicked into high gear in Wheeling where woodcarvers, battle re-enactors and vintage raceboats entertained visitors at Oglebay Park and Heritage Port.

At Oglebay’s Pine Room the Oglebay Woodcarvers Guild’s yearly Woodcarvers Sale and Show brought in artisans from all over who showcased their work, met with fellow woodcarvers and sold some of their pieces to visitors.

“We’ve got about 50 vendors,” Joe Hodorowski from Bellaire said as the crowd began to pick up on Saturday morning. “It has been a good year.”

He said the show receives a huge boost in visitors each year thanks to Fort Henry Days.

According to Hodorowski the show and sale has been running continuously for about 35 years since its inception by a small group of woodcarvers at what was then called Wheeling Jesuit College in 1978. He said the number of out-of-town vendors is roughly even with the amount of local vendors with some visitors traveling from as far away as Virginia or North Carolina to attend.

“I love this show,” Bob Chaffee, a vendor from Wellsville, N.Y. said. “It’s a good little hike to get here but it’s worth it to meet a bunch of people and have a good time.”

Chaffee said this is his eighth year visiting Oglebay.

Meanwhile, spectators at this year’s Fort Henry Days battle re-enactment – at Oglebay Park’s Site One area – are in for a surprise as the traditional Fort Henry siege scenario is put aside for this year’s event. Instead, the battlefield has become a Native American village where the usual roles are reversed and the American militia are the ones on the attack this year.

“Every year we try to do something different to keep it fresh,” Allan Spencer said.

Spencer is on the governing body for the re-enactment. He said they voted about six months ago to show a different side to the conflicts between Native Americans and settlers during the American Revolution. While not based on any particular engagement, Saturday’s battle is based on a series of clashes which happened between the two battles of Fort Henry in the early 1780s, Spencer said.

Much of the battle is similar to the usual routine from the Fort Henry siege, Spencer said.

He said the audience gets a glimpse of life in Native American villages such as farming, eating and games before an alarm is raised and the Indians realize they are under attack.

What follows is a battle of delaying tactics, Spencer said, devised to give Native American women and children time to run.

Local veteran re-enactor Alan Fitzpatrick said that while Native Americans are on the defensive this year, he promises the attacking settlers will not find them easy prey.

Among extra features at this year’s re-enactment is an American Revolutionary apothecary set up and run by doctor of pharmacy Jessica Fisher and her husband Dick along with special presentations throughout the day by colonial historian Michael Twitty.

Both the woodcarvers show and the re-enactment are scheduled to continue from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. today.

At Heritage Port in downtown Wheeling, visitors watched as the Wheeling Vintage Raceboat Regatta hosts a number of speeding raceboat drivers pushing their crafts to the limits on the Ohio River. Speed, noise and swift moves brought cheers from the audience Saturday.

The event continues from 9:15 a.m. to 6 p.m. today.

This event, with title sponsor WesBanco at the helm, seeks to raise funds for the Easter Seals Rehabilitation Center, said Debbie Joseph, race co-organizer with her husband Dan. Vintage raceboats perform exhibitions rather than actual racing as the older boats do not meet today’s safety requirements for racing.

The event has not been without challenges, Joseph said.

On Wednesday, the river rose so much that the temporary docks were affected and the pits were submerged. .

Joseph said the river conditions have not been the best because of debris and thanked the spectators for their patience as they worked to clear the debris between runs.

Proceeds from raffles and souvenirs will be donated to Easter Seals. The raffle winners will be picked at 4 p.m. today.