CRANBERRY TWP — Smack in the middle of National Tourism Week, Butler County businesses and organizations received grants from the Butler County Tourism & Convention Bureau and one man was honored with a special tourism award.
A total of 14 businesses and organizations were awarded grants of an unspecified amount at the bureau's Toast to Tourism event Thursday night at the Pittsburgh Marriott North.
David Johnston, a board member for the Washington Trail, said the grant awarded to it will boost efforts to establish a national trail following the path Washington took that included a stop in Butler County.
Johnston said the grants given by the bureau help organizations and businesses that strive to become more, but that don't have the funds or revenue to move forward.
“These little grants help to jump-start that,” Johnston said. “I think it's great.”
Joella Baker of Get Fit Families stepped to the podium to receive her organization's grant.
“It's a huge help to get this money from Butler County Tourism,” Baker said. “We will be using the money as a marketing campaign for our races.”
Baker said the organization has big races coming up including Pennsylvania State Championship May 18, and some U.S.A. Triathlons down the road.
“Our goal is to bring in people from all over the Northeast region of the country,” she said. “The fact that (the bureau) is supporting us doing that is a testament to what Jack (Cohen, president of the bureau) and his people do.”
Broadcaster Larry Berg was recognized as the 2019 recipient of the Ambassador of Tourism for Butler County.
Cohen said the award recognizes someone who not only contributes to tourism but also to the community.
“(Berg) is absolutely, sincerely all about Butler,” Cohen said. “He's an amazing, amazing man.”
Berg said he served on the tourism board for eight years, and he has watched with pride as tourism has continued to grow in the county even after he left the post.
“I'm so surprised because I haven't done anything lately,” Berg said. “I'm thrilled to get this award from this organization.”
In addition to recognizing local businesses, the event also stood as an example for the role sister cities serve in boosting tourism.
The evening progressed through German-themed music, food and atmosphere as it honored a special guest, Lord Mayor Johannes Bruns from the city of Mühlhausen, Germany, sister city to Saxonburg.
Bruns and some of his colleagues performed a skit to illustrate the history of their city and its connection to one-time native John Roebling, founder of Saxonburg and builder of the iconic Brooklyn Bridge.
“It's a really special honor to stand here today more than 4,000 miles from home,” Bruns said.
Building on a relationship that began in 2008, Bruns and Saxonburg Mayor Bill Gillespie extended their sister-city agreement last year for another 10 years.
Cohen said sister-cities help foster the idea that everyone in the world is equal and working toward similar goals in life. He said it also encourages people to travel internationally to and from Butler County.
“We build these relationships,” Cohen said. “When people travel they make friends.”
Cohen said any efforts to bolster tourism are well-warranted and foster growth in Butler County, which last year saw a $593.7 million boost in its economy from tourism.
“Everybody in here is involved in tourism in some way,” Cohen said. “It keeps their taxes lower, and it generates jobs.”
The recipients of this year's tourism grants are: Zelienople Historical Society, Butler-Freeport Community Trail Council, Beacon Hotel in Renfrew, Buttercup Woodlands Campground, Washington's Trail, Get Fit Families, Historic Harmony, SRU Office of Conference Services, Moraine Preservation Fund, Butler Old Stone House Regional Automobile Club of America, Hampton Inn and Suites, Surfsup Adventures, Butler County Airport Authority and the Rodfathers of Butler.