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More than $380,000 awarded in Westmoreland County tourism grants |

More than $380,000 awarded in Westmoreland County tourism grants

Jeff Himler
| Wednesday, January 25, 2017 5:30 p.m.
Dan Speicher | Tribune-Review
Theresa Rohall, director of the Compass Inn in Laughlintown, receives an $11,000 grant from the Westmoreland County Tourism Grant Program, at The Palace Theatre, in Greensburg, on Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2017.
Dan Speicher | Tribune-Review
Olga Herbert, of the Lincoln Highway Heritage Corridor, laughs while talking to Westmoreland County Commissioner Chuck Anderson, as she receives a $5,000 grant from the Westmoreland County Tourism Grant Program, at The Palace Theatre, in Greensburg, on Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2017. The grant will be used to create an audio tour and to purchase personal listening devices for the tour participants.
Dan Speicher | Tribune-Review
Tom Guiher, of Living Treasures Animal Park in Donegal, receives a $6,000 grant from the Westmoreland County Tourism Grant Program, at The Palace Theatre, in Greensburg, on Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2017. The grant will be used to develop new website and a digital marketing campaign.

The Lincoln Highway Heritage Corridor is preparing to break ground this summer for an addition to its Route 30 museum near Latrobe. Before then, it plans to enhance exhibits with an audio tour with the help of a $5,000 Westmoreland County tourism grant.

The nonprofit group was among 37 businesses and organizations that received a combined $382,271 during Wednesday’s annual tourism grant presentation at The Palace Theatre in Greensburg.

The money is generated through a 3 percent lodging tax in the county. Last year, the program distributed $387,933. Though down slightly, this year’s total still represents “good news” for the county and its tourism industry, said Michael Langer, executive director of the Westmoreland Cultural Trust and a member of the tourism grant review committee.

“There’s been a continued emphasis on marketing by our tourism partners,” Langer said. “The specific goal of these grants is to attract people, to expose them to the assets of our region. We’ve been successful at that for 14 years.”

He noted the program has maintained awards at a relatively high level since a recent peak of $401,191 in 2015. Since 2003, the program administered by county commissioners and the Laurel Highlands Visitors Bureau has distributed more than $4.6 million in grants.

Visitors spent more than $772.4 million in 2014, the latest year figures are available from the state.

All but one of the 2017 grants will support marketing efforts.

The $25,000 awarded to the Westmoreland County Airport Authority will help secure the appearance of the U.S. Navy Blue Angels aerobatics team, a night aerial performance by pilot Matt Younkin and a Shockwave truck powered by jet engines at the Shop’n Save Westmoreland County Airshow June 24-25 at Arnold Palmer Regional Airport in Unity.

Olga Herbert, executive director of the Heritage Corridor, said her group will supplement its grant with an additional $3,200 to buy 15 “listening wands” and a charging station from Toronto-based Tour-Mate. Visitors to the Lincoln Highway Experience museum will use the devices to hear music, sound effects and information supplementing displays about the highway’s history.

“They want the back story: Where did you get all these license plates from?” Herbert said.

The audio tours can be extended to include more information once the museum opens a planned 3,400-square-foot addition, she said.

The expansion will provide a temperature-controlled environment for restored items now in storage, including the 1938 Serro’s Diner that once catered to travelers at the Irwin interchange of the Pennsylvania Turnpike, an early 20th century tourist cabin that stood at Routes 30 and 259 in Ligonier Township and a donated 1937 Packard.

Pie and coffee will be served to visitors in the diner, which boasts mahogany, marble and leather interiors.

Herbert said total costs of the addition are not finalized but indicated the group has done well with a $1.7 million fundraising campaign.

A cinder-block garage will make way for the addition, which will double the museum’s space. Stone pillars will complement the historic stone structure that houses the existing building.

“We’ll probably break ground in June,” Herbert said.

Jeff Himler is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-836-6622 or

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