Somerset tourism organizations receive nearly $200,000 in grants

By Kecia Bal
Tribune Democrat

March 24, 2016

See this article at www.tribdem.com

 SOMERSET – Brainstorming with fellow tourism entrepreneurs, Judy Pletcher, who operates Rockwood Mill Shoppes and Opera House, came up with a wild-sounding idea for a performance: a garlic-themed cabaret.

Apparently, the idea had legs.

Faranda Farm, a 50-acre agritourism farm in Hollsopple that organizes an annual Garlic Festival, now is working with county bed and breakfasts to make the garlic event a weekend lodging package that includes the show at the Opera House – and on Thursday, the farm operators landed $4,725 to market it.

"I was just talking to the Farandas about their 'stinking good time,'" Pletcher said. "We want to have a 'stinking good time' at our place, too."

Those are the types of marketing partnerships that won funding in some of the $197,489 in Somerset County Tourism Grants awarded to 39 tourism-related businesses and organizations Thursday at the Somerset Historical Center.

The grants are funded by one-third of the revenue generated by the county's hotel room tax, a 3 percent lodging tax paid by guests.

Those were also the type of connections that Reneé Seifert, Laurel Highlands Visitors Bureau CEO and a member of a grant review committee, encouraged during the event to announce grant winners.

The idea of working with other attractions to create a package is more than just a creative twist on doing business, Pletcher said. Small businesses need to support one another, she said.

"Without one another, we don't exist," she said.

The most recent figures show tourism continues to be a major economic driver for the county – the No. 2 industry, behind manufacturing, according to Somerset County Chamber Executive Director Ron Aldom.

According to the most recent economic studies conducted by Pennsylvania State Tourism Office, travelers spent more than $379 million in Somerset County in 2013 and $1.8 billion in the entire Laurel Highlands region. The county's tourism industry also provided 2,395 jobs, according to the studies.

Seifert said the numbers are encouraging, and she praised local officials for working to support tourism efforts through the county.

"Those statistics indicate that what we all know, that the Laurel Highlands is a vibrant and diverse four-season destination with significant economic impact," she said.

County commissioners were on hand to congratulate grant winners.

Commissioner James T. Yoder, who was part of the grant review committee, said 70 businesses applied – and he saw a lot of "innovation and creativity."

The largest grant award went to Meyersdale Area Historical Society, which landed $18,337 for staffing a visitors center in the renovated Western Maryland Train Station, a popular stop for Great Allegheny Passage trail users.

2016 Somerset County Tourism Grant Awards

The following grants were awarded Thursday to 39 tourism-related businesses and organizations:

Marketing grants

• Benscreek Canoe Club, $5,730

• Chickentown Gas and Steam Association, $875

• Comfort Inn of Somerset, $3,670

• Confluence Cyclery, $746

• Confluence Tourism Association, $315

• Faranda Farm, $4,725

• Friends for the Yough Lake, $293.55

• Friends of Flight 93, $11,250

• Great Allegheny Passage/Allegheny Trail Alliance, $8,044

• Hanna House Bed and Breakfast, $600

• Haunted Hayloft, $7,500

• Hostel on Main, $3,487

• Husky Haven Campground, $765

• Huston's Haunted Hollow, $5,225

• Jennerstown Speedway, $13,533

• Laurel Arts, $3,450

• Laurel Highlands Heritage Festivals/Hurst Media Works, $3,750

• Laurel Highlands Model Railroad Club, $563

• Meyersdale Area Historical Society, $2,100

• Meyersdale Area Merchants Association, $1,000

• Mountain Playhouse/Gristmill Productions, $10,000

• Mountain Ridge Trails Resort, $3,372

• National Road Chainsaw Carving Festival/Confluence Lions Club, $1,056

• New Centerville & Rural Volunteer Fire Company/Farmers and Threshermans Jubilee, $2,838

• Pennsylvania Maple Festival, $7,318

• Quecreek Mine Rescue Site, $1,406

• Rockwood Mill Shoppes and Opera House, $13,889

• Rockwood Trail House Bed and Breakfast, $393.75

• Somerset County Chamber of Commerce, $9,868

• Somerset County Farmers' Market, $5,000

• Somerset County Maple Producers Association, $1,857

• Somerset County Rails to Trails Association, $4,304

• Somerset Historical Center, $6,238

• Somerset Inc., $3,993

• Somerset Interchange Lodging Association, $6,000

• Springs Historical Society, $6,075

• Sugar Grove Antiques, $2,393

• The Georgian Place Merchants and Marketing Association, $1,250

• Trail Town Program/The Progress Fund, d/b/a Trail Town Program, $213

Visitors center grants

• Confluence Tourism Association, $6,176

• Meyersdale Area Historical Society, $18,337

• Somerset County Rails to Trails Association/Rockwood Visitors Center, $7,891