Lincoln Highway? There's an app for that

Renatta Signorini
| Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2011

Modern meets historical at the Ligonier Theater, a building that housed a blacksmith shop in the 1920s.

Along with many other decades-old landmarks along Route 30, the theater is stepping into the present day to spread the word about its activities.

"With the code ... it's a whole new electronic step," said Cathi Rhodes, director of the Valley Players of Ligonier, which calls the theater home.

The code she's referring to is one that can open new doors for Route 30 corridor travelers, businesses and attractions. The Lincoln Highway Experience is a web-based smartphone Quick Response code that can connect travelers with destinations.

Smartphone or tablet users can scan a Quick Response code that will take them directly to the mobile-friendly website .

Stickers with the code -- similar to a black-and-white bar code -- can be found in the windows of selected businesses, historic sites and attractions along Route 30 and on the Lincoln Highway Heritage Corridor's website at .

Olga Herbert, executive director of the Lincoln Highway Heritage Corridor, said the code meets the immediate needs of travelers.

"Visitors often find themselves in a new area for a certain event -- wedding, conference or getaway -- and want to know what else there is to do there," she said.

The Lincoln Highway Experience provides the same information as local tourist centers, just with new technology, Herbert said. Destination listings come with an address, phone number and website.

The "cutting-edge" technology released late in the summer is a great way for businesses and attractions to market themselves, said Julie Donovan, director of marketing and public relations at Laurel Highlands Visitors Bureau.

"It's a very effective way to bring attention to the businesses along Lincoln Highway," she said. "It drives Web traffic, and the Web is where the majority of travelers find their information."

New destinations are added to the Lincoln Highway Experience regularly. More than 200 establishments selected by the heritage corridor are listed: from North Huntingdon to Gettysburg.

The content management system was developed by Fireman Creative of Pittsburgh. It was funded by a marketing grant from the Laurel Highlands Visitors Bureau and the Franklin County Visitors Bureau.

"It is yet another way to help support and market small businesses along our six-county corridor," Herbert said.

Up close and personal

Plenty of locations in Unity Township, Latrobe and Ligonier are listed as destinations, including the Ligonier Valley Railroad Museum, the St. Vincent Gristmill and Latrobe Community Park.

Users of FourSquare, a location-based social website, can "check in" at Lincoln Highway Experience destinations and provide tips to other users.

One user touted Fort Ligonier as the "historical treasure that is what made our town."

And Keystone State Park campers are warned to keep food locked up at night: "The raccoons are lively."

An Extra Mile Rewards program is built in for locations that want to offer a special treat for users, such as a discount or freebie, Herbert said.

"Many have expressed interest to be a part of this, and our staff is working hard to catch up with all those requests," she said.

Even though her business is not directly on Route 30, Kara Kadagishvili thinks the benefits of being part of the Lincoln Highway Experience can attract traffic onto neighboring roads.

For Kadagishvili's restaurant, Chef Dato's Table in Derry Township on Route 711, the future is taking advantage of technology.

"I like working with the Lincoln Highway group, and it's more to get people" to local businesses and attractions, Kadagishvili said.

"We like it," she said. "All the social media is a great way to advertise."

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