Valley Be Quirky

The mainstream labels it a revitalization of the Ohio Valley with Wheeling as the epicenter. But there’s a subtle underlying current that may have always been there, but it is just now evolving into an open embracement of our inner quirkiness. Not WeIrD or bizarro, just quirky. And we’re hanging it out there to celebrate our heritage.

Some communities are known for their quirks. Quirky has become so mainstream that HuffPost recently ran an article on America’s Quirkiest Cities.

Let me throw the Valley into the mix. But first to get us all on the same page, consider San Francisco and Key West as working examples.

If challenged to name something eccentric about San Francisco, the Coit Tower shaped like a fire hose nozzle on end and the Haight (Haight-Ashbury), home of the hippie “Summer of Love,” make the list. Snaking Lombard Street qualifies with its nine hairpin turns. North Beach? It’s not even a beach! Alcatraz Island, imagine a prison turned into a tourist attraction.

Key West, AKA Margaritaville, has evolved into a tourist mecca. Find a stool at Sloppy Joe’s, Hemingway’s bar, maybe the same seat he plopped down on, and order up a tequila. Hike over to his home to see the six-toed polydactyl cats for a genetic wacky. When you’re ready to end the day, stroll down to Mallory Square. Witness the tightrope walkers, jugglers and other street performers plugging for tips while everyone waits to witness a flash of tropical green just as the scorching sun extinguishes itself in the Gulf.

Got your mind frame set? Now let’s open up to the Valley’s own uniqueness and embrace our quirks.

We’ve got two castles! One on Mt. Wood Road referred to as “The Castle” or Overlook and the three-story Castle Halloween on Boggs Run Road in Benwood. Complete with gargoyles! Castles not enough?

photo by Rich Knoblich
photo by Rich Knoblich

Instead of a castle how about a palace? A Palace of Gold with actual gold trim and imported marble located outside of Limestone.

photo by Rich Knoblich
photo by Rich Knoblich

And TALK. Lawd, how we do love conversation. Give the Valley a pleasant day to linger over drinks outdoors at Later Gator, Uncle Pete’s, Generations, Avenue Eats, Panera; well, you catch my drift. All kinds of venues to express our talk. Folks enjoy talking so much; we have a history of radio stations with a talk show format. We have storytellers talking at the Lodge fire pit. There’s even a storytelling festival at Grand Vue Park each May for talkers. But enough talk, let’s explore some other fine quirks.

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photo by Rich Knoblich
photo by Rich Knoblich

The Valley embraces a wide spectrum of musical genres. Whether it’s a local bluegrass band playing for free at the SMART Centre, a symphony at the Capital, blues night at River City or on the port, musical shows at the Victoria Vaudeville Theatre (complete with an Elvis impersonator), or the restored Strand Theatre in Moundsville. And a tip of the glass to the Wine and Jazz Festival.

Did you notice how the ‘er’ is spelled ‘re’ in theatre or Centre Cup or Centre Market? Ye Olde. Isn’t our spelling stylishly quirky?

And how we enjoy our cemeteries. The local Historical Society conducts tours of cemeteries with costumed guides portraying the dead topic. Ironic since the original hosts are laid out horizontally. Michael Sweeney decorated his headstone with a four-foot-10-inch punch bowl that he kept hidden from his brother. Who builds such a large bowl? The rascally Sweeney brothers of Wheeling, that’s who.

photo by Rich Knoblich
photo by Rich Knoblich

Remember Alcatraz? We’ve got an eerie gothic spookhouse of a prison in Moundsville. And just like San Francisco we turned it into a tourist attraction with an ancient Adena Indian burial mound across the street to boot.

We collect more than memories. We like our unusual artifacts. Try the museum at Dippin Dots or the Marx Toy Museum, both in Moundsville. Head to Kruger Street for the Toy and Train Museum in Elm Grove.  But the ultimate quirky collectible has to be the Moondog bobblehead handed out at a hockey game. Classic.

Murals. We enjoy our outdoor art on walls.

photo by Rich Knoblich

Eat or we both starve. Treat yourself to the best. Good food, dead animals on the wall. If you know these slogans you’re in tune with the Valley’s quirkiness.

No Lombard Street but Pike Street. Straight, steep, narrow, a plunge downward. I like it.

Key West is an island with a bridge connection. Wheeling Island is the largest most populated island on the Ohio River connected by a suspension bridge that held the world record of 1010 feet for years. A football stadium, casino, dog track, exhibition hall, and hundreds of homes and businesses built right there in the middle of the Ohio.

Q: When will Sako and Associates start a local version of Burning Man or SXSW? How ‘bout a Show of Hands? And if you see me out and about give me a friendly wave.

photo by Rich Knoblich, an original photobomber.
Family photo circa 1960s by Rich Knoblich, an original photobomber.