BELLEFONTE — The Happy Valley Adventure Bureau (HVAB), along with the Center County Board of County Commissioners, recently announced the recipients of the 2022-23 Tourism Grants at a press conference at Philipsburg’s historic Rowland Theater.
HVAB received a record number of 75 applications for a total funding request of more than $2.97 million.
In the main funding round, 60 projects from 56 applicants received $636,900 in grants, with six applications submitted for consideration this fall. Those applications are for events taking place in the spring of 2023. The total grant fund is $670,000.
“Traditional events are back, new ones are coming back, and activity is picking up, as the grant program itself continues to pick up. That is certainly reflected in this year’s funding requests.” said HVAB President and CEO Fritz Smith. “While this has certainly put additional pressure on the Tourism Grants Review Committee in making its funding decisions, it is wonderful to see not only a return to normalcy, but also growth in our tourism product.”
Center County Commissioner Mark Higgins acknowledged that both nonprofit organizations and the tourism industry in Center County have experienced difficult times.
“These tourism grants are helping local nonprofits and other organizations improve our tourism offerings, which in turn improves the quality of life in Central County.” he said.
Higgins congratulated the tourism grant recipients and thanked the Happy Valley Adventure Bureau board and staff for their hard work in the process.
Smith said the program saw 15 first-time applicants and a handful of first-time applicants in a few years. New projects receiving funding include plans to bring a Comic Con event to Happy Valley in February 2023; support for Art in the Orchard at Way Fruit Farm during a strong weekend of events in Happy Valley; and the restoration/preservation of historic assets in the county.
“The Tourism Grant program has a long history of helping event organizers, performing arts groups, and other entities for the benefit of visitors and those who live here,” Commissioner Steve Dershem said. “Now more than ever, the program is providing the necessary funding boosts to help these groups overcome the challenges of recent years and face a brighter future.”
Nine projects that did not receive grants are being considered for funding by other sources, notably the Happy Valley Sports and Entertainment Commission, or did not meet the intent of the Tourism Grants program.
Three successful grant applicants discussed their projects at the press conference.
A $25,000 grant will help fund the replacement of the roof over the auditorium at the Rowland Theater in Philipsburg. In addition to being a historic gem in the county, the theater is home to the growing Downtown Film Festival, now in its fourth year.
“We always have a list of construction projects ranked in order of importance, and when we complete the one at the top of the list, the next one skips,” said Rowland Theater Board Member Rebecca Inlow, noting that replacing a leaky roof over our auditorium, which will cost approximately $78,000, was not on the list.
“We got the bad news late last year about the need for the replacement and we had to put this project at the top of the list,” she said. “As we move into our second century, we are very grateful to HVAB for helping us ensure that we can complete this much-needed work and keep our story moving forward.”
The Nittany Mountain Bike Association received $16,000 for Phase 2 of the Harvest Fields Community Trails project, which includes the development of a skills park.
“The Nittany Mountain Biking Association, in partnership with dozens of local businesses, organizations and individuals, is excited to break ground on the Harvest Fields Community Trails Bike Park.” said Josh Stapleton, a member of the NMBA Board. “Once completed, the HFCT Bike Park will be a one-of-a-kind destination in the region providing progressive and fun experiences for riders of all skill levels. “
Stapleton said HFCT is an outdoor community space that brings people together to enjoy the natural beauty of central Pennsylvania, improve fitness and general well-being, and provide unique mountain biking experiences.
“The NMBA is grateful to receive a 2022 HVAB Tourism Grant,” he said. “The Happy Valley Adventure Office has been a key supporter of the HFCT project, and the completion of the bike park will provide another compelling reason to visit Happy Valley!”
The Roland Curtin Foundation received $19,500 for tourist-oriented directional (TOD) signage on Route 150, directional signs on local roads, and interpretive signage on the Eagle Iron Works and Curtin Village grounds.
Sue Hannegan, Chairman of the Board of the Roland Curtin Foundation, said the Foundation is “extremely grateful” of grant funding for efforts to preserve and interpret the historic site near Milesburg.
“In the coming year, the Pennsylvania Museum and Historical Commission will be dispossessing this historic site, creating both challenges and opportunities for the Foundation as it works to bring the property back into its ownership.” she said. “This scholarship award allows history to be told, preserved and exhibited. It supports our goals of keeping the site open to the public and enhancing the cultural opportunities and economic vitality of the last and most comprehensive coal-fired iron smelter operation in the Commonwealth for the benefit of all populations.”
Smith applauded the work of the independent TRGC Review Committee, which makes grant funding recommendations to the HVAB Board of Directors for approval.
“It’s a daunting task,” he said. “We appreciate the careful consideration that goes into reviewing applications each year and the collective desire of the HVAB, commissioners and committee to fund as many worthwhile projects as possible.”
Since 2003-04, the Tourism Grants Program has awarded nearly $6.6 million to projects, events and initiatives that grow and enhance Happy Valley’s tourism product.
Central County Commissioner Chairman Michael Pipe said the impactful partnership between the Central County Commissioners and the Happy Valley Adventure Bureau continues to benefit the many groups that shape our vibrant tourism economy.
“This year, hundreds of thousands of dollars will be invested to encourage and inspire people to
visit and enjoy Center County,” he said.
2022-23 Tourism Grant Recipients (first round, recipients listed in The Express coverage area):
— Spring Township, $6,000 for engineering costs and creating a site master plan for baseball fields, basketball courts, walking trails and a playground
— Center County Historical Library and Museum, $10,000 for physical improvements to the Miles Potter-Humes House, where historical research is conducted
— Bellefonte Art Museum, $9,000 to market the museum and its exhibits
— Bellefonte Museum of Art, $15,000 to help fund an interactive educational component of the Underground Railroad exhibit
— Snow Shoe Rails to Trails Association, $7,000 for printing and distribution of a trail map
— Bellefonte Cemetery Association, $4,000 to begin a five-year plan to develop digital maps, brochures, audio tours and guided tours at historic Union Cemetery
— Mountaintop Swimming Pool Association, $12,000 to help renovate the baby pool, main pool and build a concession shed
— Wildlife for Everyone Foundation, $5,500 to help support the Great Outdoor Picnic
— Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts, $35,000 to help market the event
— The Crooked House, $10,000 to help complete the Crooked House public art project in Milesburg
— Snow Shoe Park Corporation, $6,000 for replacement of metal gate at Snow Shoe Carnival grounds
— Howard Volunteer Fire Company, $3,000 to promote the annual Punkin’ Chunkin’ Festival
— Central Pennsylvania 4th Fest, $20,000 to help market the event
— Downtown Bellefonte Inc., $20,000 to help market exclusive events, including Bellefonte Under the Lights, Winter Market and Friday in the Fonte
— Route 45 Getaways, $10,000 to help promote the Route 45 Corridor event, July 29-August 7
— Krislund, $7,000 to help market the facility, which serves as a summer camp, year-round retreat with conference facilities
— Millheim Borough, $10,000 to support the Millheim Walkfest of Art & Music, June 24-26
— People’s Choice Festival, $10,000 to market the event, July 14-17 in Grange Park
— Central County Grange Fair and Campground, $25,000 to market Grange Fair
— Central PA Tasting Trail, $5,000 to help market the trail, including passport printing and
— Central PA Tasting Trail, $10,000 to help market four events: Arts Fest, Summer Craft Beverage Expo, a fall event in Boalsburg, and Scavenger Hunt
— Historic Bellefonte Inc., $40,000 to help support landmark events
— Center County Historical Society, $11,000 to reprint Center County Explorers passports and driving maps
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