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Pa. tourism officials study character of Chambersburg

May 08, 2008|By DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. -- Sometimes it is hard to see what is special about where you live until you see it from another perspective, Columbia, Pa., Mayor Leo Lutz said Tuesday during a visit to Chambersburg.

Lutz recalled watching a television profile of the Lancaster County community and seeing it differently.

"When I watched that, I thought, 'Wow, that place is pretty darn nice,'" Lutz said.

More than 200 municipal and tourism officials were in Gettysburg, Pa., this week for Destination Pennsylvania: The Governor's Conference on Tourism, which is focusing on "character of place," according to the Pennsylvania Tourism Office.

Many of those attending boarded buses Tuesday to gauge the character of place and how it is promoted in several South Central Pennsylvania communities. Lutz and a few others, including Sharon, Pa., Mayor Bob Lucas, took the bus to Chambersburg.

The Founding Fathers statue in Fort Chambers Park, the Old Jail, The Capitol Theatre Center and Heritage Center were on the itinerary for the visitors, who were accompanied by Franklin County Visitors Bureau Director Janet Pollard and Downtown Chambersburg President Paul Cullinane.

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"The whole idea is to learn what other people are doing" to promote their towns, Lucas said. Sharon has seen its population drop from 25,000 in 1975 to 15,000 now as major manufacturers have left town, but Lucas said the town near the Ohio border has its attractions, including the world's largest candy, shoe and off-price fashion stores.

Chambersburg's Capitol Theatre Center piqued Lucas' interest because Sharon has a closed 1,700-seat movie and stage theater owned by the Vocal Group Hall of Fame, which is currently undergoing renovations.

"The biggest thing I'm taking away from this is the relationships between all the different entities," said Julie Stewart, downtown program manager for DuBois, Pa. The chambers of commerce, visitors bureau and local governments were working together to promote Franklin County as a whole, she said.

"I heard about the Heritage Center, so I wanted to get a feel of what was going on in town," Pennsylvania Humanities Council Executive Director Joseph J. Kelly said. "For us, it's about how towns are telling their stories."

Places such as the Heritage Center serve as "community learning centers" for residents, as well as starting points for tourists.

With a history that stretches back to the early 18th century, its Scotch-Irish and German ethnic roots, its Civil War connection and rolling landscape, Kelly said the county is "a very Pennsylvania place."

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