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$17K spent to increase tourism

February 19, 2009|By DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. -- The Franklin County Visitors Bureau will host 38 tour operators from as far away as Canada and Texas next week in Chambersburg for a familiarization tour aimed at increasing motor coach tourism in the county.

The Franklin County Board of Commissioners on Thursday approved contracts to pay for hosting the Star & Stripes Heartland Tour and two other projects designed to attract tourists to the county. The contracts, totaling about $17,000, will be paid for with money from the county's hotel tax, said Janet Pollard, the county's director of tourism.

"Tourism is obviously an integral part of our economy," said Franklin County Area Development Corp. President L. Michael Ross, who spoke in favor of the funding at Thursday's Board of County Commissioners meeting. Hosting the tour operators, he said, "is one way ... for her office to work with groups bringing people into the county."

The Heartland Travel Showcase is scheduled for this weekend in Pittsburgh, after which the tour operators will begin a trip taking them to two well-known Pennsylvania tourist destinations - Lancaster and Gettysburg - before coming to Chambersburg on Tuesday night.

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At the Chambersburg Heritage Center, the group will see Robert E. Lee, portrayed by Al Stone, discuss the Confederate occupation of Chambersburg in 1863 before the Battle of Gettysburg. Keven Walker will portray Jacob Hoke in a presentation on the 1864 burning of Chambersburg.

The evening will feature chocolates from Olympia Candy Kitchen, drinks from Hauser Estate Winery and Roy Pitz Brewery, and dinner provided by Flannery's Tavern-on-the-Square of Mercersburg, Pa. The Pennsylvania Opry will perform at The Capitol Theatre, Pollard said.

The Franklin County Historical Society, Conococheague Institute, Renfrew Museum, Allison-Antrim Museum and Fort Loudon Historical Society will participate in the event, Pollard said.

Representatives of the H. Ric Luhrs Performing Arts Center at Shippensburg University, Whitetail Resort, Penn National Golf Course and the Totem Pole Playhouse will be among groups meeting with the tour operators at a Wednesday breakfast.

While the visitors bureau is funded largely by the hotel tax, Pollard said 2008 revenue was about $475,000, compared to $575,000 in 2007.

State tourism grants to the county, which rose from $7,500 in 2007-08 to $67,000 in 2008-09, could be cut as Pennsylvania deals with a budget deficit. Pollard said the amount for this year already has been trimmed to $64,000.

State assistance to museums could be eliminated altogether in 2009-10, said Bonnie Shockey, president of the Allison-Antrim Museum in Greencastle, Pa.

"The line item for museum assistance has been cut to zero" in the proposed budget, down from more than $4.1 million two years ago, Shockey said. The county and historical organizations received about $29,000 in museum assistance funding in 2006-07. she said.

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