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Ligonier-based visitors bureau announces contest winners

| Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2014, 9:03 p.m.

The Laurel Highlands Visitors Bureau's 10th photo contest generated more than 800 digital entries.

To mark the anniversary, the bureau increased the prize money awarded to the winners of two categories, “People and Animals” and “Landscapes and Attractions.”

“The adage, ‘A picture is worth a thousand words,' couldn't be more true when I look at the photo contest entries. These photos are inspiring and beautifully represent the region's natural landscape and fun places to visit,” said Julie Donovan vice president of public relations for the bureau .

Donovan said the photo contest was launched in 2003 for two reasons. First, to increase its photo library for marketing purposes.

“The contest has enabled the marketing team to use authentic Laurel Highlands places and landscapes in our consumer ads, Annual Destination Guide and on,” said Donovan. “For example, the cover of the 2013 Laurel Highlands Destination Guide was a 2012 photo contest entry.”

The dramatic photo was taken at Baughman Rock Overlook in Ohiopyle State Park and offers a sweeping view of the Youghiogheny River Gorge.

“We wanted potential visitors to be inspired by that photo and other contest entries and want to visit the Laurel Highlands and see landscape and places first hand,” Donovan said.

The second goal was to encourage visitors to share the photos they had taken of their favorite activities and landscapes.

“Who doesn't love to show friends and family vacation photos?” said Donovan. “The contest allowed us to receive amazing photos that were taken from the amateur photographers' perspective. Maybe they hiked miles on a challenging trail to capture a breathtaking view or submitted a photo of their kids' having fun at one of the region's attractions.”

Donovan said when the contest began, it was before the digital era, so entries had to be 8” x 10” photos.

“The first several years we were thrilled to receive several hundred entries. We received a record 860 digital entries for the 2013 contest,” she said.

Internally, the photos are used on pieces that are distributed to partners and stakeholders such as the Laurel Highlands Annual Report and Membership Benefits Guide and well as traditional advertising campaigns including billboards and print ads.

The photos are also used for digital marketing from online banner ads to consumer E-Newsletters, and throughout

Donovan said the bureau is currently redesigning its website. The new website is scheduled to launch in late spring 2014 and will feature many of photo contest entries.

“People and Animals” include: first-place: Brenda Schwartz, Hidden Valley — Donegal Lake, Stahlstown; second-place: Bradley Fisher, Jennerstown — Fort Ligonier; third-place: Josiah Brown, Ashland, TN, — Fisher Road, Jennerstown.

“Landscapers and Attractions” winners include: first-place: Charlotte Pletcher, Somerset — Somerset Historical Center; second-place: Kurt Miller, Pittsburgh — Fallingwater; third-place: Clare Kaczmarek, Latrobe, — Rolling Rock Farms.

The photos are currently being exhibited in the hotel lobby at Seven Springs and in the gallery at Nemacolin Woodlands Resort. Both exhibitions will be up through Sunday.

The winning photos are also available for viewing at

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