Artists Carve Out Their Niche at Oglebay Woodcarvers’ Show in Wheeling

Photo by Alan Olson Chainsaw artist Jeff Roscoe carves animals out of logs on display Sunday at the Oglebay Woodcarvers’ Show.

WHEELING — More than 40 artisans and woodcarvers flocked to the Pine Room at Oglebay for the 39th consecutive year of the Oglebay Woodcarvers’ Show, sponsored by the Oglebay Woodcarvers’ Guild.

Chapter president Clark Adams speculated Sunday the heat wave may have played a role in what he called a slow weekend, but that didn’t stop people from coming to see the hand-carved figures and art pieces from local and regional artists. Fifty-two tables filled the Pine Room, representing about 47 artists Saturday and Sunday.

Outside, chainsaw artist Jeff Roscoe, of Flushing, was hard at work behind a protective screen, hewing logs into carvings which sat between him and the sidewalk, while onlookers watched him hard at work.

The Oglebay Woodcarvers’ Show is among few events of its kind on the East Coast. While a similar show is held in Dayton, artists come from as far away as New York and Florida to participate at Oglebay. While the number of shows is declining, Clark said the guild’s membership is growing.

“There used to be a lot of shows, but they’re sort of going by the wayside,” Clark said. “We’re growing here, though. It’s been easier to fill the show this year than any previous years.”

The chapter got its start in 1977, when seven local woodcarvers gathered at Wheeling College — now Wheeling Jesuit University — to show off and sell their crafts.

“The show was just to get together and display their carvings, and ultimately have some for sale, and attract other people to their organization,” recalled Joe Hodorowski, corresponding secretary for the guild.

“After that, they made a deal — there was nothing going on here at Oglebay Park on Labor Day weekend. For an attraction for us to be here, they offered us some gifts to raffle off as an incentive. … It was to benefit both us and the park, and it’s grown since then.”

The inclusion of Fort Henry Days and the Wheeling Symphony Orchestra’s “Music Under the Stars” show came later, as the woodcarvers’ show was the first major attraction at the time for Labor Day.

The Oglebay Woodcarvers’ Guild represents about 150 people, with roughly 30 active at any given time.

Money raised from the raffles and other activities benefits local soup kitchens and helps fund scholarships to the Stifel Fine Arts Center. This includes the decorated Christmas tree raffled off in December.

Clark estimated the contributions total about $5,000.

Next year’s event, the guild’s 40th, has them already planning to pull off something bigger — they’re just not quite sure what, yet.

“We’re coming up with a couple special knives engraved for our 40th year,” Clark said.

The Oglebay Woodcarvers’ Guild meets from 6-9 p.m. Mondays and from 9 a.m. to noon Thursdays from 9 a.m. at the Stifel Fine Arts Center along National Road.