ZELIENOPLE — The annual Country Fall Festival brings thousands of tourists to the borough, tourists who bring their wallets and make a big impact on the economy.
Jack Cohen, executive director of the Butler County Tourism and Convention Bureau, said the festival is one of the largest events in this section of the county, a fact that has business owners along Main Street extending hours and staying open throughout the weekend.
The festival is Friday and Saturday.
“If you think about the restaurants and the shops alone, when you quadruple the amount of people coming into the community,” Cohen said. “That's a big boost to business.”
Cohen called the festival a “precursor of the holiday season,” a sort of preseason event to the shopping season that gets tourists in the mood to spend.
Jennifer Ackerman, the executive director of the Zelienople-Harmony Area Chamber of Commerce, said people from across the region come to the event.
Last year, Ackerman said she talked to several people from Ohio who came to Zelienople.
“I think it's very good for the community to hold a festival like this because it really does bring people in from all over the place,” she said. “It draws in thousands from outside the community and really increases visibility here.”
Shelly Mathew, owner of Mathew Jewelers on Main Street, said hers is just one of several businesses that will have extended hours during the festival.
“It's wonderful because we get a lot of people into town who may never have been to Zelienople before,” she said. “It gives them a chance to see our Main Street.”
Mathew said she plans on keeping her store open on Sunday, a rare occurrence.
The storeowner also said the Country Fall Festival isn't just a one-time boost in business. Rather, it's an opportunity to showcase the goods and services available in Zelienople so that tourists might keep coming back.
“We're fortunate because we do have a Main Street here, a walkable, viable Main Street,” she said.
Whitey Boehm, owner of Whitey's General Store on Main Street, agreed with his colleagues that the festival has a tremendous effect on the borough's economy.
He too will keep his business open on Sunday, a day that it is traditionally closed. He also will open the store earlier and close later to accommodate the thousands of people in town that weekend.
“The fall festival is the best thing for the town,” he said. “Horse Trading Days really carries our summer. Fall Festival carries our fall and carries us into the holidays.”