It’s Oglebayfest time again. During the weekend of Oct. 5-7, the hills of Oglebay will fill with vendors and visitors for the beloved annual event. Along with favorites like the Phil Maxwell Artist and Gourmet Market, the Ohio County Fair and the ever-popular Rathskeller, Oglebay Institute’s Schrader Environmental Education Center will host its annual Ecofest. Ecofest takes place from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 6.
In the past, the Schrader Center celebrated Ecofest in conjunction with Earth Day. Since Schrader director Molly Check’s arrival, the festival has moved to this busy fall weekend so more visitors can participate.
“There’s already a lot of people in the park,” Check said. “Lots of great activities are going on as part of Oglebayfest, and now our Ecofest has become one of those attractions. I think last year, we had 350 people visit the Schrader Center.”
Let Kids Touch
Located just a short walk from the Hess Shelter’s Rathskeller, the Schrader Center offers both indoor and outdoor activities, all of which can be enjoyed by adults and children alike.
In addition to visiting the Samara Shop for local, nature-themed goods and crafts, and checking out the current reptile and bird displays, the staff will set up exploration stations. And after a stroll through the Artists’ Market, where kids may be gently discouraged from poking pottery and fingering jewelry, some hands-on activities may be just what they need.
Children can touch everything at Ecofest, including animals. During live animal shows, kids will meet the residents of the Schrader Center: turtles, snakes and amphibians. They’ll learn about each species and interact with them. They’ll get to run their hands over a skeleton, palpate bones and learn about owl pellets.
Marshmallows, Birds and Tie Dye
Outside by the campfire, you can roast marshmallows, sip cider and purchase hot dogs. At the birding station, members of the Brooks Bird Club will be on hand to help you check out avian life in the forest through binoculars. Additionally, kids can make a seed cup and bring home native plants for their own yards.
For those who love a classic fashion statement, a tie-dye expert will be on hand at the dyeing station to help you create new — or repurpose old — wearable art.
“A tie-dye master will show them how to go through the process,” Check said. “He’s got lots of good tips for patterns they can do.”
White shirts will be available for purchase, but you can also BYOS (bring your own shirts) and have them dyed for free.
Take a Hike
If you feel like soaking up some nature, all the trails will be open for hiking, with two of Oglebay’s waterfalls within walking distance. Or, participate in an ongoing scavenger hunt.
“You can pick up a list to complete as an individual or as a family and then come back and get a participation prize,” Check said.
Bees, Butterflies and Crafts
In addition to activities provided by Schrader Center staff and volunteers, several other individuals will set up shop. John Welty, owner of Windswept Farm, will be selling honey made by his bees, and he’ll have an observation hive so visitors can get a look at the inner workings of a honeybee colony. Greg Park will offer a sourdough-making demonstration. Scrappy Pappy (of Scrappy Pappy’s Recycling, in Wheeling) will be showcasing a new, upcycled, industrial propane fire pit.
Local crafts and products for sale include honey and holiday wreaths by Jade’s Homegrown Connection and essential oils by Akiko Brownstein.
According to Check, visitors will also get to meet Heather Tokas, owner of Butterflies from Heather.
“I call her the queen of the butterflies,” Check said. “She came and led a program here as part of the Master Gardener series. It was on monarch butterflies and how to attract them to your yard. It turns out that she has been raising butterflies for the last 45 years of her life since she was a little girl. And she still is here in this area, raising butterflies.”
According to Tokas, she’ll have an interactive, educational butterfly tent with four species of butterfly for observation and feeding. She’ll be there to answer monarch questions and help visitors with butterfly gardening and identification.
It will cost $2 per person to enter the tent, and butterfly kits will be for sale in the Samara Shop (the last ones available until spring).
Make It Your Day
Like Oglebayfest, Ecofest will be very casual. People can stop in and stay as long as they like or pop in and out. Animal shows will be ongoing all day. In the event of rain or cold, the Schrader Environmental Center is a warm, dry spot where kids can play and learn. Additionally, the Schrader staff is proud to offer a new children’s library, recently created through the support of the Brooks Bird Club.
According to Check, “The Brooks Bird Club and the Schrader Center go back for many, many years and have been partners. The Books Bird Club has kept their library here in one of our rooms. But over the last year, they have started purchasing children’s books and donating them to us, in addition to the children’s books that we’ve already had here. We’ve now formed our children’s library, which is a nice place for folks to just stop by. They can hang out in there and read, and we’ve got little tables and chairs set up for the kids with cushions for the floor. But now you can also check those books out. So all the children’s books and also all of the adult Brooks Bird Club books — they’re all available for check out.”
Lastly, what’s an Ecofest without a little local music? The Wheeling Park High School Bluegrass Band will be playing at noon. They’re worth hearing.
The great thing about Oglebayfest is that it offers something for everyone. Indeed, we’ve all got our Oglebayfest routine mapped out, by now, one we probably follow time and again and look forward to when the leaves start to fall.
This year, put Ecofest on your list for Saturday.
• Laura Jackson Roberts is a freelance writer in Wheeling, W.Va. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Chatham University and writes about nature and the environment. Her work has recently appeared in Brain, Child Magazine, Vandaleer, Animal, Matador Network, Defenestration, The Higgs Weldon and the Erma Bombeck humor site. Laura is the Northern Panhandle representative for West Virginia Writers, a blog editor for Literary Mama Magazine and a member of Ohio Valley Writers. She recently finished her first book of humor. Laura lives in Wheeling with her husband and their sons. Visit her online at www.laurajacksonroberts.com.