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Survey project tracks Fort Ligonier Days visitors' travel distance

| Wednesday, Oct. 16, 2013, 9:01 p.m.
Sean Stipp | Tribune-Review
Sarah Mroczka (left) interviews Michelle Clise of Ligonier for a survey at Fort Ligonier Days to find out where people are traveling from to attend the event.

As the Fort Ligonier Days festival unfolded into the streets of Ligonier last weekend, a group of student volunteers manned the Ligonier Valley Chamber of Commerce office.

When other teens were socializing at the festival, Rachel Berger, Ashley Harr, Devyn Lisi, Emma Markle and Sara Klinchock spent the weekend running errands, distributing programs, answering telephone calls and manning the lost and found area. Sandra Svilar coordinated the students' schedules for the chamber.

This year, the students participated in a survey project coordinated by Sarah Mroczka, a California University of Pennsylvania student who interned for the chamber during the summer.

Mroczka and the student volunteers interviewed visitors in and around the festival area.

Last year was the first year the chamber conducted a survey. It was included inside the Fort Days brochure.

More than 700 visitors responded to the first survey. It focused on the features of the festival — the crafters, food booths, parade and entertainment.

“The visitors were happy overall. They rated the quality of our juried crafters very high.” said Holly Mowrey, the chamber's execu,ctor.

She said the parade also received high ratings.

“It is not your typical parade,” she said. “I think people want to see something different each year. Peggy Shepler and Tom Stablein do an outstanding job of getting different types of units for the parade each and every year.”

Mowrey said last year's survey also rated the food booths with high marks.

“Vic Smith took on the food booths last year and did a fantastic job of getting a variety of vendors this year as well, with no duplicate food booths.”

This year, the survey turned its focus to where people are coming from to attend the festival, Mowrey said.

“We want to find out how far people are traveling to come to Fort Ligonier Days,” she said.

She said last year's responders were primarily local people. By conducting the survey in person, the chamber hopes to reach a broader group of visitors.

The survey asked people how they heard about the festival and how many times they have attended in the past.

Among the questions they were asking was “What is your ZIP code?”

Mroczka, a senior at California University, created the list of questions based upon a similar survey she conducted in Gettysburg last year.

“We ask for the ZIP code first because it helps us determine where people are coming from to attend the festival,” Mroczka.

She said the festival committee is interested in finding out how people found out about the festival and what age groups are attending the annual event.

The information will next be compiled into a database. The committee will use the data to determine how to better promote the event in the future.

Mroczka said the survey group received positive feedback.

“It gives a good impression to visitors that the Fort Ligonier Days officials care what people think of the festival,” said Mroczka about the face-to-face interviews conducted this year.

“I am a very social person. I love to do these surveys just to see what people want more or less of,” she said.

Mroczka, 21, of Boswell plans to secure a career in tourism.

“I have always traveled since I was young. I love to find out and learn about new places and then recommend them to others, especially historic places like Ligonier,” she said.

Deborah A. Brehun is a staff editor for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-238-2111 or dbrehun@tribweb.com.

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