The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

July 9, 2013

For JAHA, NPS an industrious idea

Could bus tour success expand offerings?

The Tribune-Democrat

— Was it the power of the press? Or the enticement of our region’s fabulous tourism offerings?

We’d like to think it was both.

An Industrial Heritage Bus Tour this Saturday co-sponsored by Johnstown Area Heritage Association and the National Park Service sold out on July 1, a day after it was announced in an article on our news pages.

“Oh my goodness, yes,” a JAHA spokeswoman responded when asked last week whether the tour had been sold out. “The phone was ringing off the hook on Sunday and Monday.”  

No surprise there.

We suspected reporter Tom Lavis’ report, “Partners offering industrial history tour,” would stoke a lot of interest.

“That sounds really interesting, one reader told us. “I’d like to see the (Lower Cambria) blacksmith shop, and I’ve never made it to the Allegheny Portage Railroad (National Historic Site).”

He’s not alone. While the blacksmith shop isn’t yet open to the public, the railroad site at Gallitzin has been luring tourists for many years.

Still, we are sadly aware that a lot of area families have never made the trip.

“There are a lot of fascinating stories associated with the area’s industrial importance and the role it played in developing America,” Shelley Johansson, JAHA’s director of communications and marketing, told Lavis.

“Johnstown was the Silicon Valley of the steel industry. The industry’s brightest minds were sent to Johnstown to learn how to make steel.”

The  bus tour will leave the Heritage Discovery Center in Cambria City and take passengers to the railroad site, Gallitzin Tunnels and back to Cambria City and the blacksmith shop. Other amenities on tap include the discovery center’s “Mystery of Steel” film and costumed interpreters.

For the cost of $15 a person, the tour is a tremendous bargain.

“We need to do it again, possibly in the fall,” said Richard Burkert, JAHA president and CEO. “We’re working with the park service.”

Might it even be considered as a motorcycle guided tour for next year’s Thunder in the Valley?

Our region has more fascinating tourism offerings than most areas our size. A good starting point for a family day of touring would be to pick up a 2013-2014 tourist guide at the Greater Johnstown/Cambria County Visitors & Convention Bureau office along Roosevelt Boulevard, or at one of the many area businesses stocking copies.

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