Photo and Story by Rick Hiduk
The Dietrich Theater and Wyoming County Cultural Center in Tunkhannock was the recipient of a 2014 room tax grant totaling $10,000. On Dec. 30, the Wyoming County Commissioners approved the disbursement of an additional $43,550 to local organizations via the Endless Mountains Visitors Bureau.
Competition was brisk, but nine non-profit agencies and one municipality in Wyoming County were among the recipients of grants from room tax fund, which was created by the state legislature about a decade ago to help the organizations promote their most important events outside the area.
Usage of the funds, which were also distributed in Bradford, Sullivan, and Susquehanna counties, is limited to marketing, special events and exhibits, way-finding (signage), or historical preservation.
“All of them have to be geared toward tourism and attracting people from outside a 50 mile radius,” noted Jean Ruhf, Executive Director of the Endless Mountains Visitors Bureau (EMVB), in reference to the applications submitted.
The Dietrich Theater and Wyoming County Cultural Center was one of four organizations to receive $10,000.
“We are trying to use the funds to not just bring people into the Dietrich Theater but to frequent our unique shops and stay in the area,” said Erica Rogler, the theater’s Cultural Programming Director.
In previous years, the cultural center applied for the funding with a specific event in mind – the annual film festival. County Commissioner Judy Mead noted that, this year, both the Dietrich and the Tunkhannock Area Business and Professionals Association (TBPA) were allocated funds to use at their discretion, so long as the organizations spend within the guidelines of the program.
In addition to spring and fall film festivals, Rogler related, portions of the grant will help the cultural center promote Shakespeare in the Park, which occurs in Lazybrook Park on the eve of Founders Day; River Day in Tunkhannock’s Riverside Park; and activities associated with the Airing of the Quilts in Tunkhannock in October.
“These grants are integral to our event success,” noted Nancy Parlo of TBPA, for which the program seems tailor-made. “TBPA exists to promote the greater Tunkhannock area for the benefit of area residents, businesses and visitors.”
TBPA events toward which portions of its $10,000 grant are earmarked include Founders Day in June and Wreaths Around Tunkhannock and Christmas in Our Hometown in December.
“A major component of hosting these annual events is promotion and advertising or other promotional efforts,” Parlo continued. “TBPA certainly would not have the success we have had without being able to advertise these activities regionally. As you can imagine, such advertising is quite costly. We are very grateful to again be the recipient of these funds.”
The Wyoming County Chamber of Commerce procured a first-time $4,000 grant to advertise the agency’s 2014 Shop Chamber contest. According to Executive Director Gina Getz, the Chamber is working with WBRE TV and Blue Ridge Communications to promote the relatively new contest, which encourages Christmas shopping at Chamber-member businesses for the chance to win one of two $500 prizes. Getz is hopeful that the funds will enable the Chamber to also pay for advertising in magazines. Local sponsorships then cover the costs of the actual gift certificates that are awarded.
“We are helping the business, who are very happy to participate,” Getz remarked. Each $500 prize can be divvied up at the winner’s discretion among as many as five member businesses. “It’s very flexible.”
“These grants are intended to get ‘heads into beds,’” said Ruhf, noting that efficient use of the funding fosters a self-sustaining cycle of even more guests in local hotels. Each participating county collects a three percent room tax. The grants are then managed by local visitors bureaus, which retain 70 percent of the grand total for promoting respective regions as a whole to potential visitors from other states or other regions within Pennsylvania.
Commissioner Mead, who is on the Wyoming County Room Tax Committee, noted that requests for funding were nearly double what they were the previous year.
Entities in Wyoming County to receive funding, in addition to the aforementioned include the Kiwanis Wyoming County Fair, $10,000; the North Branch Land Trust, $10,000 for upgrades at the Howland Preserve at Vosburg Neck in Washington Township, including construction of an ADA-compliant restroom; Nicholson Borough, $3,350 for new signage; Keystone College, $2,500 for promotion of Christy Matthewson Days; Wyoming County Room Tax Committee, $2,000; Keystone College, $1,000 for a concert and lecture; and The Oldest House in Laceyville, $700.
Directors of non-profit organizations in Bradford, Sullivan, Susquehanna, and Wyoming Counties who conduct events or have preservation projects on tap that would benefit from external marketing can download an application for next year’s grants at www.endlessmountains.org.