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Laurel Highlands Visitors Bureau recognizes champions of tourism

| Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2013, 9:02 p.m.
Kim Stepinsky | for the Ligonier Echo
Herbert Olga Herbert, Tourism Trailblazer of the Year recipient, at the Laurel Highlands Visitors Bureau annual dinner, held at the Fred Rogers Center at St. Vincent College in Unity Township on Thursday evening, October 17, 2013.
Kim Stepinsky | for the Ligonier Echo
Tourism Trailblazer of the Year recipient Olga Herbert and Ronald W. Virag, president/ CEO of Laurel Highlands Visitors Bureau, mingle at the Laurel Highlands Visitors Bureau annual dinner, held at the Fred Rogers Center at St. Vincent College in Unity Township. on Thursday evening, October 17, 2013.

When it comes to blazing a trail for tourism in the Laurel Highlands, Olga Herbert meets all the criteria.

Herbert, executive director of the Lincoln Highway Heritage Corridor and the Lincoln Highway Experience Museum, was recognized, along with three other champions of tourism at the recent Laurel Highlands Visitors Bureau annual dinner held at the Fred Rogers Center at St. Vincent College in Unity.

“The selection committee felt Olga embraced what we are about, she embraced what a tourism trailblazer is all about,” said Julie Donovan, vice-president, public relations for the visitors bureau. “We want to recognize Olga for her efforts all year and for what she has done to increase awareness of the Lincoln Highway.”

Herbert was named Laurel Highlands Trailblazer of the Year for her efforts.

Other champions recognized at the dinner included Judy Pletcher, owner of Rockwood Mill Shoppes and Opera House — Tourism Entrepreneur of the Year; Linda McKenna Boxx, president of the Allegheny Trail Alliance — LHVB Special Recognition Award; and Louise Tilzey-Bates, Westmoreland Heritage Tourism Council — Tourism Employee of the Year.

“Olga's efforts to create a buzz about America's first coast-to-coast highway, which celebrated its 100th anniversary this year has spurred community and economic development through tourism,” said Andrea Cuda a member of the board and chairwoman of the event. “She is credited with saving many of the Lincoln Highway's iconic landmarks and having them added to the Historic National Register. Olga epitomizes someone who thinks out-of-the-box. She is the queen of collaborators.”

Cuda said Herbert spearheaded many new initiatives which have attracted visitors to explore the region, including the creation of the 200-mile Roadside Museum, the Handmade along the Highway artisans' program and the Laurel Highlands Trout Trail project.

“If not for my great staff — office manager Kristin Poerschke, the board of directors and the many volunteers, I would not have been able to accomplish many of the projects to promote tourism in the Laurel Highlands,” said Herbert.

After renting in nine different locations, during the past 15 years, including several locations in Ligonier, Herbert has settled the Lincoln Highway Heritage Corridor's museum at its permanent home at the 200-year-old Johnston House located near Kingston Bridge, between Latrobe and Ligonier.

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

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