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Officials Boast Positive Economic Impact of ALF

Thursday, September 26, 2019 @ 12:09 AM

Posted by Aly Delp

autumn-leafCLARION, Pa. (EYT) – With the 66th Autumn Leaf Festival fast approaching, local officials are looking forward to the economic bump it brings to the area.

More than 500,000 people are estimated to attend the internationally award-winning annual event.

According to Tracy Becker, the Executive Director of the Clarion Chamber of Business and Industry, those attendance estimates come through a variety of sources.

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“PennDOT puts strips on the road that count how many cars come in and leave each day, and they have a formula to figure out the average number of people in and out. It’s something they come back to us with and pass on their numbers,” Becker told ExploreClarion.com.

“Another thing is on our biggest days, we have people that will count the number of people on each side of a block, then use that along with how many blocks are involved that day to get an estimate of the number of people. Also, when I ride in the parade, I have my phone and will take photos of the crowd, so we’re able to show the size and volume of the crowd to potential sponsors, as well.”

According to Becker, with so many people traveling to the area for the festival, the economic impacts on the area are numerous.

“The hotels are all booked, definitely for the second weekend and mostly for the first, I think. There are event places in DuBois and Brookville and Cook Forest that are booked. This year, we even had people calling us to ask if there are houses for rent along the river, which was interesting.”

County Commissioner Ed Heasley noted the same.

“There’s a lot of income in the area from people overnighting in hotels, eating in restaurants; it’s a huge income for the county,” Heasley said. “A lot of families get together and there are social events. It’s a time of year when Clarion County shines.”

Commissioners Ted Tharan and Wayne Brosius echoed Heasley’s sentiments.

“Every time someone spends a dollar in our county, that’s a dollar we didn’t have before,” Tharan noted.

“Even if it’s just when a car gets off the interstate for gas, or to get lunch, or to stay at a hotel, every one of those businesses employs people.”

According to Tharan, he would estimate the overall impact in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

“If you just look at Friday, at Farmer’s and Crafter’s Day, just look at how much money is changing hands that day.

“It really gets people aware of what we have in Clarion and how special it is. That’s probably why so many people come back because they like the town, and of course the university, since a lot of them went to school here.”

Brosius added, “It definitely has a positive impact with the hundreds of thousands of people who come into town that week.

“I think everyone in town benefits from the people that come into the county. It’s kind of a homecoming for people who used to live here, along with the alumni that come back from all across the country. It may only cover two weekends and one week, but the impact is still important.”

Tharan also noted it’s difficult to assess how much of a difference the festival bringing people into the area can have because it can affect so much more.

“You don’t know what effect that has over the years, how many people come back because it’s so nice. You don’t know if someone came and liked it so much they decided to move here or start a business here.”

According to Becker, the difference the festival makes to many downtown businesses is measurable, though.

“A lot of them look forward to it. The people coming in helps them get through into the fourth quarter and the holiday season, so they’re thankful to have that draw to bring people in,” Becker explained.

“Even in the restaurants, while people are eating at the vendors, they’re eating at the restaurants, too. Plus the vendors for the craft show and the food vendors and amusements people are eating in the restaurants. A lot of them are out on circuit for half the year and you just can’t eat vendor food every day.”

Becker noted the people coming to town do have an effect on more than just the hotels and the downtown businesses, as well.

“The vendors coming in are buying things form Clarion Fruit. They’re not bringing everything in from out of the area, they’re shopping here for paper products, and produce, and meat, and things like that. Even gasoline.

“I don’t think every store is necessarily making tons of money, but I do know a lot of business comes in from the alumni, and there are stores that rely on that.”


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