HVAB, commissioners announce 2022-23 tourism grant recipients

BELLEFONTE — The Happy Valley Adventure Bureau (HVAB), in conjunction with the Centre County Board of Commissioners, recently announced the recipients of 2022-23 Tourism Grants at a news conference at Philipsburg’s historic Rowland Theatre.

The HVAB received a record number of 75 applications for a total funding ask of more than $2.97 million.

In the main funding round, 60 projects from 56 applicants were awarded $636,900 in grant funding, with six applications tabled for consideration this fall. Those applications are for events taking place in spring 2023. The total grant pool is $670,000.

“Traditional events are back, new ones are returning, and activity is picking up, as the grant program itself continues to rebound. That is certainly reflected in this year’s requests for funding,” said HVAB President and CEO Fritz Smith. “While this undoubtedly put some added pressure on the Tourism Grant Review Committee in making its funding decisions, it is wonderful to see not only a return to normal, but growth in our tourism product.”

Centre County Commissioner Mark Higgins acknowledged that both nonprofits and the tourism industry in Centre County have experienced difficult times.

“These tourism grants are helping local nonprofits and other organizations enhance our tourism offerings, which in turn improves the quality of life in Centre County,” he said.

Higgins congratulated the tourism grant recipients, and thanked the board and staff of the Happy Valley Adventure Bureau for their hard work in the process.

Smith said the program saw 15 first-time applicants, and a handful of applicants applying for the first time in a few years. New projects that received 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 robust weekend of events in Happy Valley; and the restoration/preservation of historical assets in the county.

“The Tourism Grant program has a long history of assisting event organizers, performing arts groups and other entities to the benefit visitors and those who live here,” said Commissioner Steve Dershem. “Now more than ever, the program is providing necessary funding boosts to help these groups move beyond the challenges of the last few years and face a brighter future.”

Nine projects that were not awarded grants are either being considered for funding by other sources, notably the Happy Valley Sports and Entertainment Commission, or did not meet the intent of the Tourism Grant program.

Three successful grant applicants spoke about their projects at the news conference.

A $25,000 grant will help fund the replacement of the roof over the auditorium at Rowland Theatre in Philipsburg. In addition to being a historical gem in the county, the theatre is home to the growing Centre Film Festival, now in its fourth year.

“We always have a list of building projects ranked in order of importance, and when we complete the one at the top of the list, the next one jumps up,” said Rowland Theatre Board member Rebecca Inlow, who noted that replacement of a leaking roof over our auditorium, which will cost approximately $78,000, was not on the list.

“We received the bad news late last year about the necessity of the replacement and had to put this project at the top of the list,” she said. “As we move through our second century, we are very grateful to the HVAB for helping to ensure that we can complete this very necessary work and keep our story going.”

The Nittany Mountain Bike Association was awarded $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 begin construction of the Harvest Fields Community Trails Bike Park,” said Josh Stapleton, a NMBA Board member. “Once complete, the HFCT bike park will be a unique-to-theregion destination providing progressive and fun experiences for riders of all skill levels. “

Stapleton said the HFCT is an outdoor community space that brings people together to enjoy the natural beauty of central Pennsylvania, improve fitness and overall well-being, and provide unique mountain biking experiences.

“NMBA is grateful to be a recipient of a 2022 HVAB Tourism Grant,” he said. “The Happy Valley Adventure Bureau has been a key supporter of the HFCT project, and completion of the bike park will provide yet another compelling reason to visit Happy Valley!”

The Roland Curtin Foundation received $19,500 for Tourist Oriented Directional (TOD) signage on Route 150, wayfinding signs on local roads, and interpretative signage on the grounds of Eagle Iron Works and Curtin Village.

Sue Hannegan, President of the Roland Curtin Foundation Board,said the Foundation is “extremely appreciative” of the grant funding for efforts to preserve and interpret the historic site near Milesburg.

“In the coming year, the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission will divest itself of this historic site, creating both challenges and opportunities for the Foundation as it works to transition the property back to their ownership,” she said. “This grant award allows history to be told, preserved and exhibited. It supports our objectives to keep the site open to the public, and enhance the cultural opportunities and economic vitality of the last and most complete charcoal-fired, iron smelting operation in the Commonwealth for the benefit of all populations.”

Smith applauded the work of the independent TRGC Review Committee, which makes the grant funding recommendations to the HVAB Board of Directors for approval.

“It’s a daunting task,” he said. “We appreciate the thoughtful consideration that goes into reviewing the applications each year, and the collective desire of the HVAB, commissioners and the committee to fund as manyworthwhile projects as possible.”

Since 2003-04, the Tourism Grant program has awarded nearly $6.6 million to projects, events and initiatives that grow and enhancement Happy Valley’s tourism product.

Centre County Commissioner Chair Michael Pipe said the impactful partnership between the Centre 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 towards encouraging and inspiring folks to

visit and enjoy Centre County,” he said.

2022-23 Tourism Grant Recipients (first round, listed are recipients in The Express’ coverage area):

— Spring Township, $6,000 for engineering costs and creation of a master site plan for baseball fields, basketball courts, walking paths and a playground

— Centre County Library & Historical Museum, $10,000 for physical improvements to the Miles Potter-Humes House, where historical research is performed

— Bellefonte Art Museum, $9,000 to market the museum and its exhibits

— Bellefonte Art Museum, $15,000 to help fund an interactive education 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 the historical Union Cemetery

— Mountaintop Swimming Pool Association, $12,000 to help refurbish the baby pool, main pool and construct a concessions 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 finish the Crooked House public art project in Milesburg

— Snow Shoe Park Corporation, $6,000 for metal door replacement on the grounds of the Snow Shoe Carnival

— Howard Volunteer Fire Company, $3,000to market the annual Punkin’ Chunkin’ Festival

— Central Pennsylvania 4th Fest, $20,000 to help market the event

— Downtown Bellefonte Inc., $20,000 to help market signature events, including Bellefonte Under the Lights, the Winter Market and Friday in the Fonte

— Route 45 Getaways, $10,000 to help promote the Route 45 Corridor event, July 29 to Aug. 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 at Grange Park

— Centre County Grange Fair and Encampment, $25,000 to market Grange Fair

— Central PA Tasting Trail, $5,000to help market the trail, including the printing of passports and


— Central PA Tasting Trail, $10,000 to help market four events: Arts Fest, Summer Craft Beverage Expo, a fall event in Boalsburg and a Scavenger Hunt

— Historic Bellefonte Inc., $40,000 to help support signature events

— Centre County Historical Society, $11,000 to reprint the Centre County Explorers passports and driving maps


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