Grants help attract Blair tourists

The success of the Fort Roberdeau Association in attracting visitors is a good example of how the Blair County Tourism Marketing Grant Program works.

Over the last three years, Fort Roberdeau has attracted visitors from more than 40 states and from 17, 18 and 23 different countries over those three years, said Director Glenn Nelson.

“That ties into the tourism grant. We get our brochures out to visitor bureaus near Penn State and Juniata College, and people see our brochures when they drop off their students. Without this grant, we wouldn’t have the means to put out these brochures,” Nelson said.

Fort Roberdeau received a grant Friday for $3,996 from the program, a partnership between the Blair County commissioners and Explore Altoona.

Eight grants worth a total of $30,462.25 were handed out at the new Fairfield by Marriott — Towne Place Suites by Marriott.

“The purpose of the program is to offer financial assistance for the anticipated result of enhancing the leisure destination marketing efforts of Blair County’s nonprofit tourism assets,” Explore Altoona Executive Director Mark Ickes said. “The goal is to generate increased overnight stays at the county’s hotel properties, thus contributing to more than $335 million in annual visitor travel/spending, which trickles throughout the entire business community.”

The Fort Roberdeau Association will use its grant award to target prospective visitors from the Mid-Atlantic area interested in discovering history sites, leisure and outdoor recreation, re-enactors and history enthusiasts and those interested in the astronomy night sky programs. The award will include placement in the Official Visitors Guide to Blair County, ad placements in American Spirit magazine and Recreation News and the printing of 20,000 brochures.

Five organizations — Railroaders Memorial Museum, Altoona Symp­hony Orchestra, Blair County Arts Foundation, Blair County Historical Society and Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art — received grants of $4,000.

Blair County Arts Foundation will use its grant to target family audiences with a commercial through Comcast reaching into outlying markets and hopefully, resulting in an increase of out-of-town overnight visitors attending the 52nd annual Blair County Arts Festival.

“All of the local arts organizations benefit from these funds to drive visitors to our region and promote our activities better than we can do on our own,” said Kate Shaffer, executive director.

SAMA’s marketing initiative is to increase visitorship at the Altoona museum by showcasing local artists in the Downtown Photography Exhibition from November 2019 to May 2020. The museum will use the grant funds across multiple platforms, including social media, and will incorporate videos of the artists via QR codes to SAMA’s website among additional media.

“This is an incredible opportunity. This allows us to share the incredible resources we have to a broad community base. This allows us to branch out and reach markets we would not reach,” said Vanessa Houser, executive director.

Allegheny Ridge Corp. received a grant of $3,875 and Rails to Trails of Central Pennsylvania, $2,591.25.

Rails to Trails of Central Pennsylvania’s project will cover the cost of printing 40,000 brochures for year-round distribution through Explore Altoona’s brochure distribution program and statewide distribution through Pennsylvania on Display.

“We are thrilled with the Explore Altoona folks that they have agreed to partner with us to promote the Lower Trail, and we can help promote the other attractions in Blair County,” said Karl King, vice president. “We are excited about the connection with Canoe Creek State Park. The underpass is completed and will officially open this spring. The trail is part of the 911 Memorial Trail; we are excited to participate in that as well.”