Dec. 8—CHAMPION, Pa.—When Forbes Trail Brewing opened in July in Shade Township, the founders of the new microbrewery often let their beer do the talking, partner John Maurizio said.
Now, nearly six months later, the business, located along U.S. Route 30, plans to fill its hours — and its beer glasses — with new reasons to attract locals and tourists alike next year. . That includes special releases aged in bourbon barrels, live music and a Mardi Gras party, he said.
“I think that companies like ours are a great support for tourism,” said Maurizio. “When people travel here, they stay an extra day to visit breweries and wineries. Our hope is to create new reasons to attract people.”
On Wednesday, Forbes Trail Brewing was one of 40 Somerset County tourism-focused organizations that received additional help from the Somerset County Annual Tourism Grant Program to accomplish that task.
A total of nearly $518,000, generated by the Somerset County lodging tax, was awarded to non-profit organizations, businesses and tourism groups to help them market themselves across the state and beyond.
The total was an increase of nearly 12% over the amount delivered through the program in 2021.
“I’m excited to see more than $500,000 reinvested in the tourism foundation,” said GO Laurel Highlands Executive Director Ann Nemanic, thanking Somerset County Commissioners for supporting the program.
Pennsylvania counties have the authority to enact a specific tax to support tourism. Somerset County set the rate of its hotel tax, which is paid per person checking into a hotel room or other lodging property in the county, at 5% to support the Tourism and Maintenance Grant Fund of trails in 2018.
This year’s grant recipients included lodging providers, destinations such as Jennerstown Speedway and the Quecreek Mine Salvage Site, and shops and support companies operating near those destinations.
Jennerstown Speedway ($89,000) and Mountain Ridge Trails Resort ($60,072) were among the largest grant recipients; each of them planned to target crowds through multifaceted marketing campaigns.
Confluence Tourism Association President Suzanne Lentz said her organization has been around for decades, but because of existing costs for mission staff and promotion, specialty advertising would likely be out of reach without the grants for sightseeing. This year, association leaders plan to market Confluence as a Great Allegheny Passage trail stop in the American Cycling Association’s Adventure Cyclist magazine.
“I don’t know if we would be able to do things like this without the help of the program,” he said, calling the grant a great benefit. “It allows us to reach a target audience… of outdoor enthusiasts.”
Somerset County Commissioner Colleen Dawson noted that the benefits of the program are countywide. She encouraged organizations that share the same communities, or target the same tourists, to find creative and collaborative ways to use future dollars.
“Think big,” he said. “We want you to continue to market Somerset County and all that we have to offer here.”