Butler County hopes to be fall tourist destination

| Saturday, Sept. 21, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

Fall isn't just a season, it's a tourist attraction.

Butler County is working to make itself a fall tourist destination — rivaling towns such as Clarion, which bills itself as the Autumn Leaf Capital of the World,

The Slippery Rock VillageFest held on Sept. 14 drew an estimated attendance of between 30,000 and 35,000 people, said Jack Cohen, president of the Butler County Tourism Bureau.

Other festivals, such as the Portersville Steam Show Apple Festival on Oct. 5-6, or the Zelienople Harmony Country Fall Festival on Oct. 12-13, will draw similar crowds, he said.

“It's so different than the old days.This is a true destination these days because of the things that go in to communities,” he said.

The county's harvest festivals, corn mazes and haunted attractions are a financial boon, not just in terms of dollars spent by tourists, but by the image they convey about life in Butler County.

“You can't put a price on it,” he said.

“These little festivals are quality-of-life issues that generate millions and millions of dollars in revenue, not just in tourism, but from people moving to the area,” Cohen said.

Heather Schmeider of For All Family Farms in Butler said fall is its biggest and busiest season. She and her husband, Justin, run the farm's Pumpkinpalooza Fall Fest and Fear Farm haunted trail and corn maze on weekends from Oct. 5 through 27.

They opened their pumpkin patch three years ago and have doubled the number of people coming through their farm each year and expect to do the same this year.

“We're expecting a big year this year. We're pretty excited,” Schmeider said.

The Moraine Preservation Fund offers fall foliage pontoon boat tours on Lake Arthur every weekend in September and October.

Park Manager Dustin Drew said that while summer is the busiest season, the park has a steady flow of people until winter for hunting, boating and hiking.

“Fall stays busy. Lots of hunting seasons come in,” he said.

Moraine has more than 13,000 acres open to hunting, trapping and dog training during established seasons.

“And of course there's watching the leaves change and coming out to see that with the lake as a setting. That's popular for both drivers and boaters,” Drew said.

A listing of fall events in Butler County can be found at www.visitbutlercounty.com.

Rachel Farkas is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-779-6902or rfarkas@tribweb.com.

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