WGAL 8 In Focus: Summer Tourism

WGAL 8 In Focus: Summer Tourism

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The issues affecting you. Revealed, explained discussed now on WG Gail eight in focus. Hello, I'm Susan SHAPIRO. Tourism is big business in the Susquehanna Valley.

Visitors come from many surrounding states and beyond to the area to take in the beauty, culture and history. Places like the Gettysburg Battlefield, Mount Gretna in Lebanon County and the Sight and Sound Theater in Lancaster County are big draws. Tonight, we take a look at what's new to see and do as we put the summer tourism season in focus. Joining us now is Joel Cliff, who's with Discover Lancaster.

Thanks so much for being here. Well, thanks for having us, Susan. Appreciate it. How important is the tourism industry to Lancaster in Lancaster County? It's a large part of our economy. I mean, we supply more than 27,000 jobs. It's $3.2 billion in total economic impact every year and getting about 10 million visitors.

So it's a it's a large part of of the economy here in Lancaster County. Is that just a seasonal thing or has it gotten more year round? We're close to year round. January, February, a little bit slower. But from March, all the way through the holidays, we really do draw a lot of folks. Obviously, summer is still our peak and fall is is a good time for us.

But we really are we're close to year round, if not fully. Obviously, Lancaster County has always been big for people to come and see the Amish and experience Pennsylvania Dutch culture. Have you tried to expand that and how has that worked? Yes, we definitely have really over the last ten years since we changed our name to discover Lancaster.

We've worked on broadening the brand, the Amish culture and Pennsylvania Dutch dining and things that people have known as far are still very important. And we don't want to leave that behind. We just want to give people six or eight or ten reasons to come here rather than the two or three that they've always known as. So we've been really, you know, roping in more about our our foods, seeing the wines and breweries out, you know, outdoor recreation, lots of family fun. So additional things for folks to come back many times through their lives.

I was going to say that's the trick to get people to return. Yes, indeed. And so we're fortunate that we have lots of different reasons, I think, that attract folks now. Nowadays, particularly at different times in their life, as well as new things that are, you know, coming online each year. We're fortunate that we have a tourism industry that really invests in itself. I guess you always have to come up with new ideas.

Yes, we certainly always want to be on the cutting edge of things when it comes to marketing and public relations and and our sales team. So we've been doing all sorts of, you know, mobile based trails that have really been popular over the last couple of years on ice cream and wines and breweries and things like that. We've got, you know, some new ones that are planned in the works this coming year. We also have something called Lancaster County Video TV, which runs on fire and Roku, Amazon, a number of wines. It's about an hour long and has different elements of what's new here in the you know, in Lancaster County as well some tried and true ones.

So different ways to sort of get all that we have to offer out to people. What kinds of new things for this season, would you say? Yeah, well, you know, I was recently at the debut of Daniel at Sight and Sound Theater's tremendous, tremendous show. They continually outdo themselves. So that'll be a real big driver for folks this year.

We have the U.S. Women's Open coming later this year. They're coming back in less than ten years.

They were here in 2015. Record setting crowds back then. So we're hoping that we'll break our own records. That's really exciting for folks. We're looking forward to Hershey Farm Resort coming back online after their fire from last year.

That's always really a big thing for folks. They they love it. It's a place that that we've all grown up with. And so we're excited for them to come back online. We've got some great anniversaries this year.

Miller's smorgasbord is 95 years old. This year. They're the oldest smorgasbord in the in the country or in the county. Kitchen kettle is kitchen. Cattle Village is 70 years old and refreshing Mountain and adventure center up in Stephens is 40 years old.

So lots of anniversaries to celebrate this year as well. And that's a good thing to promote. What are you finding in terms of spending? Are people back to spending? Maybe what they did pre-COVID? Yes. I mean, in fact, our our spending is above 2019 levels at this point. We had a really we bounce back in 21 pretty quickly and just got above 1922 was quite a big year.

23 we don't have final numbers yet, but it was also a solid year might end up between 21 and 22. But in terms of visitation as well as what they're spending. Yeah, those numbers have definitely gone up and that's been fortunate with regard to our tourism businesses as well as the folks that that they employ. We keep hearing that people are looking for experiences.

Is that what you're finding as well? Yes. Yeah, most definitely. I mean, unfortunately, we have a lot of neat things to offer in that regard. There's lots of different types of tours and ways to experience like Lancaster County, whether you want to be out by the river and do something, say on a kayak, you know, out on the Susquehanna, or whether maybe something like unique Lancaster experiences down in the city where you can tour historic areas on e-bike use of hot air balloons. Our traditional buggy rides, Stroudsburg scooters is a great way to see it. So truly different ways to see the county and experience it.

And that that definitely is something that we've been seeing in our visitors and and has progressed over the last couple of years. Lots of ways to travel once you get here. What's the best way for folks to find out about what's going on? Well we're simply at Discover Lancaster dot com.

We've got all our events page there as well as all the different things that are new this year and different, you know, aspects of of our tourism economy in terms of lodging activities, places to to eat and and shop. So it's all right there. All right. And I imagine, like local residents can take part as well. Oh, definitely. I mean, we we see a lot of locals on our website, especially the events page, because we've got one of the best ones in the area.

So we love to have locals enjoy it just as much as visitors. All right. Thank you, Joel. Thank you. Have a great season. Thank you so much. Okay. Coming up on WG al eight in Focus. We'll look at what's happening along the Susquehanna River in Columbia and Wrightsville. This is WG WGBH eight in focus coverage you can count on.

Joining us now is Hope Byers and she's with the assessment a national Heritage Area. Thank you so much for joining us. Sure. No problem. Glad to be here. Your organization promotes heritage travel and outdoor recreation.

Why is that? It's because our region of York and Lancaster County are both designated as a national heritage area. It means that we're designated by Congress and we have a significant place in America's story. And so we get to use recreation, outdoor adventures like paddling and boating and trails to tell the stories of the past and to really uplift the things that make our region nationally significant. And a lot of people have community pride in our history.

And so we just get to showcase what community members already know and love about our region. It really is an area that's very rich in history if we're talking Lancaster and York Counties. Exactly. And we think the river is the middle of that place. The river is something that a lot of people see as a barrier. Certainly in the American Revolution, the Continental Congress moved from Lancaster to York for protection to have that natural barrier. But today it's something that brings our two counties together.

It's a place to recreate. It's a place to go to the trail paths. And it was a great connector for such a long time with the bridges. And so we see this as going to river as the heart of all of the stories that our region has to tell.

And so we tell a lot of stories through our programs. We have a wooden electric boat called the Chief Funchess, and that's a great place to get on the river and actually discover the history that's there. Even if you don't feel comfortable operating a boat or going kayaking on your own, How do you get on the Yankees? The Yankees run seasonally because it has a wooden electric boat. We take it out on the river starting around Memorial Day, and you can actually buy gift certificates right now, kind of a save your seat for the season. And then we operate the entire way through fall, which is a beautiful time to come see the changing of the leaves.

And so you can get a boat tour, even a haunted heritage boat tours late in the season through October. Wow, I love the River Trail. I've ridden from Columbia, you know, along there, and it's really wonderful. What do you recommend about that for folks? I definitely tell people, if you've never been along the river on our trails, you are missing some great nuggets of history and some really wonderful family time. The Northwest River Trail that you mentioned is paved, so it's amazingly friendly for anybody that's got a disability.

And it's wonderful for children. If you've got a youngster who's on a balanced bike and starting out, they can certainly learn to ride on there. And you'll go through a lot of history. The section between Columbia and Marietta was all iron furnace. History is amazing.

Remains through there on the north end at Bill Meyer, the White Cliffs and the old quarry town remind us of all this industry that used to exist. And so there's a lot of stories along the river, and you'll find our organization doing different tours or sharing different digital guided opportunities for people to take the history with them on your bicycle or even if you know you really want to. There's also rock climbing.

We have some great adventure outfitters that can hook you up with rock climbing right on Chuckie's rock right along the trail there, which is a little too much for me. But some people do it. Yeah. No, that's exciting. And you do have a visitor center there and also in another location, correct? We do. Soskin, a national heritage area, operates the Columbia Crossing River Trail Center.

That's where people can visit and pick up all their outdoor recreation guides and information, all those trail maps, where to, how to information. And then across the river at long level, we operate the Zimmermann Center. It's a historic mansion and it's where our boat tours leave from. They have amazing information about the native culture and there's also a beautiful art collection that you can view when you're at the Zimmermann Center. So there's a lot to see in Columbia and Wrightsville.

Do you think this kind of tourism has gotten more popular maybe since COVID? Yes, absolutely. We recently got numbers from the Pennsylvania Tourism office that showed us that outdoor recreation spending in Pennsylvania has increased over 26% between 2021 and 2022. So I think people have reconnected to the outdoors and they're really making experiences the priority when they visit, going out to eat and doing retail shopping is still very significant for our tourism dollars. But people in York and Lancaster are spending $3.5 billion every year when they visit. And instead of just buying a trinket to take home, they're having an experience and making a memory.

That's a lot of money to be spending in our area. It is. It's very significant. The industry puts a lot of people to work not just seasonally, and it offers us an opportunity to leverage those visitors and help them learn something about our community that might help them come back another time, or it might expand their knowledge and understanding of who we are as Americans and who we are as Susquehanna Valley community members. And I think that's the important part about what we do. Just quickly, where are they all coming from? It's amazing.

We have people from all across the country, but in Pennsylvania, your visitors are about 40% day trips, which means a lot of folks are coming from your local nearby states, New Jersey and Baltimore. We have a lot of people from Maryland and West Virginia who are day tripping and about 60% of those people are coming from overnight. So we also still have a really interesting tour groups visiting us from international only. And so it's always interesting.

I think I talk to people who know different languages every day and that's something that is not you would expect to see in Lancaster, but it is happening more and more often. Oh, that's great. Well, thank you. Hope We appreciate it and good luck with the season. Thank you so much.

Coming up on WG eight In Focus, we'll learn what's happening in Mt. Gretna, Lebanon County. This is WGBH eight in Focus coverage you can count on.

Joining us now is Kari Royer, the director of the Mount Gretna Art Show and also a mouth Gretna resident. Thanks so much for being here. Thank you. Mount Gretna has a unique history, doesn't it? Tell us a little bit about it.

Says it was founded in 1892 as one of the shattock was and also as a camp meeting. So all of our summer programing is based on the Chautauqua principles, the philosophy. Chautauqua was founded as a place for educators to go and learn, wasn't it? Yes, and it's based on history, science, recreation, religion. And so our should talk with summer programs focus on all areas, including book talks, art.

And you can check out our calendar and you can come to any of our to some of our programs. And they're open to anyone. They are, yes. And of course, the art show in Mt. Gretna, you are in your 50th show this year.

That's amazing. That's a that's a long history right there. That's right. We're very excited about our 50th show. Lebanon County has proclaimed 2024 the Year of the Arts.

So we are doing many celebratory community based art projects leading up to the art show this year. This is a huge art show and it is juried, isn't it? It is a jury nationwide show. We have 200 artists we have emerging artists, and we draw from all over the nation. And so we are named one of the 200 best shows nationwide and all kinds of artists doing all kinds of working in all kinds of mediums. Yes, we have all kinds of medium, but we also have gourmet food and we have musicians. This year we're going to have some special year.

The arts, music programing, bluegrass, jazz, Americana. And we also have a kids show. And it's such a beautiful setting in the woods. Yes, it is. It's lovely. And we say that our show is under the trees of old Chautauqua.

Beautiful. Also, Mt. Grand has a lake that people recreated that you also have a theater. A lot of the little fun, a lot of things going on in that small place. Oh, absolutely. We have the lake.

But this year, a special event with the art show is our international film festival. It's our first year and we are launching that on Sunday, August 18th. Our film festival is in memory and in honor of Michael Saylor, one of our community members who we lost last year. And so bringing this film festival is really realizing history, and we're inviting emerging and established filmmakers to enter and they can find it on our art show website. And we have amazing prizes.

We also have a high school film festival. And so all you budding filmmakers out there or established filmmakers take note, that's for sure. What's it like to be part of this rather special arts community there? Well, it's really wonderful.

And we all summer have some amazing events that people can attend with Gretna Music. We have chamber jazz world music with Gretna Theater. This year. They're bringing chess to Mt. Gretna and we also have many events in the Tabernacle.

And so everyone can find out about the events on our new Arts Council website, which is Mt Gretna Dawg. Oh, wonderful. Well, it sounds like you're in for a great summer season. We are.

We're excited to comes alive in summer. Yeah, well, thanks so much. Coming up on WG Alade in Focus, we'll look at what to expect this year at the Gettysburg battlefield and at the Eisenhower Farm. This is WGBH eight in Focus coverage you can count on. Joining me now is Jason Martz and he's with the Gettysburg National Military Park and Eisenhower National Historic Site, two important places of history in our area, that's for certain.

How many people visit Gettysburg on a given year? Gettysburg has been averaging roughly a million visitors per year, give or take, for probably the past 30 years or so. So it's very popular. Very popular. Do you have to be a history buff to go there? No, you don't. One of the other things that we get as far as conversations with visitors are concerned is that they don't realize until they get there how beautiful the battlefield is and how bucolic it is and how much of a juxtaposition it is today versus how it would have been during the battle in July of 1863, the the two really hard to get connected in folks heads in many cases.

And they're just blown away with how big it is, how big of a battlefield it is and how pretty it is. How big is it? More than 6000 acres. Wow. So it's hard to see all of that at any one time. It is. We talked about two things.

The military park and the Eisenhower home. How do they differentiate and what can people see when they go to to the to the sites? Yeah. So at Gettysburg National Military Park, of course, is the slightly more than 6000 acre battlefield commemorating the Battle of Gettysburg that took place on July 1st, second and third, 1863. And it also incorporates the Gettysburg National Cemetery, which, of course, is where Abraham Lincoln would present his now famous Gettysburg Address on November 19th, 1863. So there's there's so much to see there.

So many layers of history involved with that. But then as far as Eisenhower National Historic Site is concerned, it's immediately adjacent to the battlefield on the south west corner. And that site commemorates the only home that President Dwight and first lady Mamie Eisenhower ever owned. And it's a he ran it as a black Angus farm.

And folks can visit the house and walk around the grounds and really get sent back to the 1950s, 1960s time frame when the Eisenhower's lived in that area. There has been a recent effort to bring this whole area back to the way it was and the way it looked. Oh, absolutely. That that's really at one of our core missions for both parks is to maintain as much as realistically possible what the battlefield would have looked like in 1863, as well as what the farm would have looked like during the Eisenhower ownership of the property.

I know I went on a tour with a guy. We went, you know, with a personalized guide, which was a great way to see the battlefield. It is those are licensed battlefield guides and they are administered directly by the National Park Service.

There's a very rigorous test series that they have to go through in order to become a licensed battlefield guide. So the folks who do this are experts, and they're very dedicated. But that is just that's just one way to see the battle. And you can also climb some of those towers, which is a great way to see an aerial view.

Absolutely. All right. Big question. What about little round top? I know it's undergoing some some work right now. When will that be reopened? So right now, the the reopening window is late spring to early summer here of 2024. So hopefully just in in a couple of months.

And you have a lot of things going on that people can take part in. Absolutely. The the House over at Eisenhower is open seasonally spring, summer and fall.

It's usually closed for the most part over the course of the winter. But that starts to open back up again in early April and will be open Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. All the times are on the website and then the the Gettysburg, Gettysburg National Military Park. Lots of programs are starting in May.

There's what we call living history programs, living history demonstrations where groups of volunteers come in about every other weekend from May through the end of October. And they portray different civil war units for both sides, for Confederate and for union. They could be infantry, they could be artillery, they could be cavalry. And in many cases, they will do firing demonstrations. You mentioned the Web site. What's the best way to plan a trip?

Is it to check out the website? What is it 100% for Gettysburg? It's w WW dot NPS is for national Park service dot gov slash g e t t or for Eisenhower. It's slash e. I see the first four letters of both words. Great. And I imagine it is good to kind of plan what really like to see and do things.

It really is there. There's so much to see and do. A little planning goes a long way. You might not be able to take it all in one day, that's for sure. Thank you so much for joining us and thanks very much for what you do. Thank you. Thank you for joining us for w gale eight in focus.

For all of us at WGL, i'm susan SHAPIRO and join us again next Saturday night at 7:00 for w. Gail eight in focus right after NBC Nightly news. And you can watch each episode of in focus plus w Gail's latest newscast, original programing and more.

Just download the very local app and stream for free on Roku and Amazon Fire TV.

2024-05-27 11:51

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