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Westmoreland County tourism grants promote banana splits, breweries, trolley, railroad

| Tuesday, March 31, 2015, 4:43 p.m.
Olga Herbert, executive director of the Lincoln Highway Experience Museum in Unity, explains how visitors will interact with the new  'License to Drive' exhibit at the museum. The collection of vintage license plates, donated by Hacke Mazanowski in memory of Paul Hacke George, depicts the history of license plates in Pennsylvania. A Westmoreland County Tourism grant is funding the project.
Deborah A. Brehun | Trib Total Media
Olga Herbert, executive director of the Lincoln Highway Experience Museum in Unity, explains how visitors will interact with the new 'License to Drive' exhibit at the museum. The collection of vintage license plates, donated by Hacke Mazanowski in memory of Paul Hacke George, depicts the history of license plates in Pennsylvania. A Westmoreland County Tourism grant is funding the project.

The banana split celebration will get a boost in luring visitors to the Latrobe area, along with local breweries, St. Vincent College's training camp trolley and Derry Railroad Days.

The Westmoreland County Tourism Grant Program awarded $401,191 to 71 tourism-related businesses and organizations recently at Westmoreland @rt30. The Laurel Highlands Visitors Bureau oversees the program, which has distributed $3,898,472 to date.

Six Latrobe and Derry groups received $28,500; 17 Ligonier Valley area organizations got $110,445.

The grants, funded by a 3 percent tax levied on hotel bills, are meant to bring tourists to the region.

“For many of these entities, it gives them marketing dollars they never would have had,” said Julie Donovan, vice president of public relations at the visitors bureau. “There's this whole legacy in Latrobe that's very important to our overall tourism product.”

Greater Latrobe-Laurel Valley Chamber of Commerce received one of the largest grants this year: $10,000 for the Great American Banana Split Festival, planned for Aug. 21 to 23, and a video project to promote the area.

Chamber President David Martin said a bigger festival is planned this year.

“We believe the banana split festival celebration has the potential to be a true regional event, every bit as much as the air show or Fort Ligonier Days,” he said.

Donovan said drawing visitors to the area promotes why the region is unique, including the birthplace of the banana split in Latrobe.

“Not every community can claim to be the birthplace of the banana split,” she said.

Steelers training camp

St. Vincent College, which will celebrate its 50th Steelers training camp this summer, received $4,000 for marketing its trolley tour to visitors during the event.

Spokesman Don Orlando said the popularity of the trolley, decorated like the “Mister Rogers' Neighborhood” trolley, last year encouraged the college to add more tours for this summer.

“People love the trolley, especially kids, so it's an entertaining and unique way to tour the campus,” he said.

Another local event, Derry Railroad Days, received funding.

Organizers will use $500 to market the Sept. 19 and 20 festival that celebrates the history of train travel in the region, said Chairman Russ McKlveen.

“We're very pleased,” he said. “We've had calls already about people wanting to reserve their place, whether it be for vendors or entertainers.”

Beer and trout fishing

Donovan said when visitors come to Latrobe, Derry and Ligonier for these events and attractions, they have a ripple effect on businesses such as restaurants and hotels.

“They visit other places, then it benefits all the lodging and the restaurants,” she said.

Four Seasons Brewing Co. in Unity received $2,000 to advertise in Craft Pittsburgh Magazine and at Arnold Palmer Regional Airport.

Owner Mark Pavlik said the publication for beer enthusiasts or airplane passengers could entice new visitors.

“Maybe if they see one of our ads, they would drive a few miles and have a beer,” he said. “It's just about getting people to stay in the area and promote Westmoreland County.”

The Ligonier Valley is a “major destination” within the Laurel Highlands, Donovan said, and as such many groups were given grants.

Forbes Trail Chapter of Trout Unlimited will receive $1,000 for advertising in the Mid-Atlantic Fly Fishing and the Laurel Highlands Visitors Bureau Destination Guide and supporting the Laurel Highlands Trout Trail website. A $1,500 grant will help the organization add 25 tons of limestone sand to the Rock Run area to maintain a healthy stream environment for anglers.

Coordinator Olga Herbert said the alkalinity of the stream is pretty high.

“This limestone sand will be the perfect treatment that will create a healthy habitat for fish,” she said. “If fish are there, the tourists will go there.”

“There are more miles of trout fishing streams in Pennsylvania than any other state except Alaska,” Donovan said. “The fishing business is very large for the tourism industry.”

Lincoln Highway

Lincoln Highway Heritage Corridor was awarded $1,945 for marketing to produce a rack card and participate in the bureau's brochure distribution program. It also received $2,500 for two new exhibits.

“Museums should always try to create new opportunities and experiences so that you have returning visitors,” said Herbert, who is also executive director of the corridor.

One exhibit is an interactive, light-up map powered by a stationary bike.

“As visitors pedal, it will light up the map,” she said.

The other exhibit centers on a collection of license plates that will depict the history of such car tags in Pennsylvania.

Other grants

Other grant recipients include:

• Glengarry Golf Links — $3,500 to create a cooperative and multi-night getaway package advertised on the visitors bureau website at golf shows and on a tourism rack card.

• Springhill Suites by Marriott Pittsburgh-Latrobe — $8,500 for social media advertising, ads in City & Shore Magazine, on GolfTrips.com and the visitors bureau website.

• Compass Inn Museum — $3,000 to boost marketing by partnering with the visitors bureau and advertise on the radio and in Johnstown Magazine.

• Fort Ligonier — $12,000 for a multimedia marketing campaign.

• Fort Ligonier Days Inc. — $13,500 for online advertising, brochure distribution and television and radio ads.

• Idlewild and SoakZone — $5,000 toward the purchase of an O the Owl costume for its live “Daniel Tiger” show, and $20,000 for a Northeastern Ohio marketing campaign.

• Laurel Highlands Heritage Festivals Marketing Cooperative — $5,000 to purchase television and outdoor advertising and ads on laurelhighlands.org for the Ligonier Highland Games and the Stahlstown Flax Scutching Festival.

• Ligonier Theatre, Home of the Valley Players of Ligonier — $2,500 for brochure distribution and a partnership with the Mountain Playhouse.

• Ligonier Valley Chamber of Commerce — $3,000 to promote awareness of the valley's events, shopping, dining, lodging establishments and attractions.

• The Ramada Ligonier — $10,000 to enhance marketing in group, consumer and online initiatives.

• Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art at Ligonier — $2,000 toward construction and installation of a sign with the museum's name and logo for its property, as well as $2,000 to highlight their exhibit of 50 exclusive pastel paintings from The Central Pennsylvania Pastel Society and The Pittsburgh Pastel Artists League.

• Stahlstown Flax Scutching Festival — $2,500 for brochure distribution and a web, news and social media marketing campaign.

• Latshaw Productions & Marketing Inc. — $15,000 to target the group travel market with multimedia campaign and brochure.

• Laurel Highlands Nordic Ski Patrol — $2,000 to upgrade medical and search and rescue equipment.

• Laurel Highlands Snowmobile Club Inc. — $500 to promote races and the region's trail system in the Keystone Snowmobiler, the Pennsylvania Snowmobile Association's monthly publication.

• Southwestern Pennsylvania Council for the Arts Inc. — $500 toward print and bulk mail marketing campaign.

• The Country Cupboard & Nature Run Wood Works — $2,000 to promote its furniture in The Country Sampler magazine.

• Champion Lakes Golf Club — $3,000 to install two digital signs along state Route 711.

Nicole Chynoweth and Stacey Federoff are staff writers for Trib Total Media. Federoff can be reached at 724-836-6660 or sfederoff@tribweb.com.

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