Businesses, nonprofits helped by Westmoreland County Tourism Grant Program

| Wednesday, March 12, 2014, 11:30 p.m.

Sixty-five businesses and nonprofits received more than $382,000 in funding through the Westmoreland County Tourism Grant Program on Wednesday.

Those groups will receivee funding via 71 grants — the largest number of grants the program has funded since its creation in 2003, said Ron Virag, president and CEO of the Laurel Highlands Visitors Bureau, which administers the program.

Since the program's inception, $3.5 million has been distributed, Virag said.

“There's so much good that can be done with the funds available. We wanted to involve as many (recipients) as possible,” said Virag. “Every little bit helps further the reach of tourism.”

The funding, totalling $382,575, was awarded during a ceremony at Westmoreland @rt30, the Westmoreland Museum of American Art's temporary space in Unity while it renovates its Main Street building in Greensburg.

Grant funding comes from a 3 percent tax levied on overnight accommodations in Westmoreland County.

One-third of the revenue from the hotel room tax goes toward the grants, which can be used for capital improvements or marketing outside of Westmoreland County.

The largest grant recipients year were:

• Idlewild & SoakZone in Ligonier Township — $30,000 to purchase Daniel Tiger costumes and produce a marketing campaign in northeastern Ohio.

• Arnold Palmer Regional Airport in Unity — $25,000 to produce and distribute a new brochure.

Palace Theatre in Greensburg — $25,000 for multimedia promotions of the celebrities, touring shows and regional productions that perform at the theater.

• Westmoreland Heritage — $20,000 for the Unity-based group to purchase a new camera for photos in brochures and social media and to travel to festivals around the region to promote historic and cultural sites.

Idlewild's half-million annual visitors will get to meet Daniel Tiger, the lead character of “Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood,” said park spokesman Jeff Croushore. The animated children's show is a spin-off of “Mister Rogers' Neighborhood” that follows Daniel, the son of Daniel Striped Tiger.

Patti Hicks, secretary of the Miracle League of Western Pennsylvania, said her group will use its $8,000 grant to publicize its athletic programs for people with disabilities.

Rotary Miracle Sports Complex in Murrysville features Bill Mazeroski Miracle Field, a rubberized field with bases and field markings that allow players to round the bases on foot or on wheels.

Hicks said the group will use the grant to expand its offerings to include basketball, soccer and flag football, buy the equipment needed and market the programs to families and potential volunteers.

West Overton Village & Museums near Scottdale will use $9,800 to promote the site and create an entrance that clearly directs visitors to the historic mansion, said managing director Jessica Kadie-Barclay.

“The biggest first impression when people come to West Overton is, ‘Where do I go?' ” she said. “We don't want (big) signs that say, ‘Start here,' ” so officials are looking to create a walkway that leads visitors to the mansion first.

Kari Andren is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.

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