PAGO Staff Pictured Above from L-R: Becky Pearsall, Catherine Coleman, Jamie Popson, John Straitiff, Adam McCully (not pictured Mark Knapp)

Story By John Straitiff

2016 was an exciting year at the PA Great Outdoors Visitors Bureau and across the PA Great Outdoors region.  In February, Punxsutawney Phil predicted an early spring to the delight of thousands gathered on Gobbler’s Knob.  Also in February, Adam McCully joined the PAGO team as our new Marketing and Publications Director.  In 2016, The Ridgway Chainsaw Carvers Rendezvous was moved to March for the first time. It turned out to be a great move as Mother Nature blessed the region with warm temps and sunny days that helped attract record attendance to the event.  The first big event of spring was for the brave souls who turned out for one of the largest paddling events in the state, the annual Cameron County Canoe & Kayak Classic in April.  April was also the much-anticipated start of trout season and the return of anglers to the fish filled waterways in the region.  The Fryburg/Marble Mayfest over Memorial Day weekend kicked off the busy summer travel season.  In June, as the Mountain Laurel blooms turned the woodlands pink and white, I made my television co-hosting debut on Friends in Wild Places as the TomBob crew filmed an episode at the annual French Indian War encampment and battle reenactments at the Sawmill Center in Cook Forest State Park.  Scripture Rocks Heritage Park, just outside Brookville, also opened in June and was a huge success by all accounts attracting over 9,000 visitors in the first six months.  June also saw Mark Knapp join the PAGO team as our primary outside distribution specialist.  As spring became summer, the dancing lights of synchronous fireflies found in the Allegheny National Forest continued to grow in popularity and the Firefly Festival drew large crowds to Tionesta.  In July, life on the Allegheny was celebrated in style during the annual East Brady Riverfest and Friends in Wild Places filmed the Big Foot hunt during Weekend in the Wilds in Emporium.  Summer was filled with county fairs and local festivals that offered plenty of music, food, entertainment, and family fun.

August was the PA Great Outdoors Elk Expo on the grounds of the beautiful Elk Country Visitor Center in Benezette.  Also in August, visitors to the Clarion County Airport Open House were treated to a spectacular airshow.  The highlight of the day, at least for me, was the glider aerobatics set to music.  During September the sights and sounds of the elk rut brought more visitors to the region than ever before.  As summer gave way to fall, the granddaddy of annual events in the region, Clarion’s Autumn Leaf Festival brought in over 500,000 visitors.  Finally, the year ended with Brookville’s Victorian Christmas Celebration. There were so many things that happened over the year and I only touched on a few highlights.  Looking back it was a good year.

As I look ahead to 2017, there are a lot of good things happening in the PA Great Outdoors region.  New businesses are opening and others are expanding operations.  Committees are already working on plans to make their events even bigger and better.  Cook Forest State Park is garnering even more attention since it was named “Best Old-Growth Forest” by Men’s Journal and this list goes on.  The PAGO team is strong and excited about the 2017 Sports Show season.  We will be attending shows in North East Ohio,

Pittsburgh, Harrisburg, Monroeville, Altoona, and Buffalo.

Find more information on events, things to do, places to stay, and much more online at or call the PA Great Outdoors Visitors Bureau at (814) 849-5197 to request a free Visitor Welcome Guide.

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