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Cohen spearheaded events, initiatives

The sky lights up during closing night of the Pyrotechnics Guild International convention at Cooper’s Lake Campground in 2013. Butler Eagle File Photo
Game-Changing Projects

In his more than 20 years of service to Butler County, Jack Cohen has been responsible for creating and supporting a wide variety of projects. From creating a new event to celebrate our Bantam Jeep heritage to helping preserve the history of George Washington’s 1753 journey through Butler, the impact of Cohen’s work can be seen across the county.

Making Butler a destination

Creating engaging and successful events is one key in making a place into a destination. Annual events, such as the Moraine State Park Regatta, have become traditions that bring people to Butler County every year. From its inception in 1998, Cohen has been involved in planning and executing the regatta. The bureau continues to support this annual event through sponsorship and promotions.

In 2009, Cohen began researching how to fund and plan an annual festival to celebrate the invention of the Bantam Jeep in Butler County. Two years later, the first Bantam Jeep Heritage Festival was held at the Big Butler Fairgrounds. The first event had a Jeep parade that put the festival in the Guinness Book of World Records.

In 2015, the nonprofit organization called the Friends of the Bantam Jeep Association was created to take over the event. That same year the event retook the Guinness World Record for the largest parade of Jeeps with more than 2,400 vehicles participating. The festival attracts Jeeps from across the globe to Butler County every June.

Jack Cohen, of the Butler County Tourism & Convention Bureau, speaks in October 2012 at a preview for the Pyrotechnics Guild International’s “Boom & a Blast” 2013 convention at Cooper's Lake. Butler Eagle File Photo

Another unique event that was hosted by Butler County was the Boom & a Blast Pyrotechnics Guild International's convention. In 2013, the four-day event was held at Cooper’s Lake Campground and featured training seminars, workshops, safety training, supply vendors and fireworks displays. It is estimated that this convention brought in $5 million in revenue for area businesses, including hotel room bookings.

And this July, Butler County is hosting the Can-Am Police-Fire Games. This first responder-focused event will bring participants and their families to the county for a week of competition and camaraderie. The event highlights state-of-the-art sporting venues, such as the UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex, and family-friendly attractions like Moraine State Park. This event is expected to draw visitors from other states and other countries.

Supplying a bit of entertainment, Matthew Kearns, of Butler, plays bagpipes from a moving Jeep during the 2011 Jeep parade thorough Butler. Butler Eagle File Photo
Jeeps parade through downtown Butler during the 2015 Bantam Jeep Heritage Festival. Butler Eagle File Photo
Creative collaborations

Collaboration with local nonprofits has also been a large part of Cohen’s career. The Butler Chapter of the North Country Trail Association has worked with the tourism bureau since 2005. The group maintains nearly 60 miles of the trail and offers many unique opportunities for group hikes and volunteerism. Cohen and the bureau have offered continuous support in the mission to connect the sections of the trail throughout the county.

A Saxonburg contingent in September 2016 visited sister city Muhlhausen, Germany. From left are Saxonburg Mayor Bill Gillespie and his wife, Sue; township secretary Linda Kovacik; former Councilman Mike Lazaroff and his wife; Councilman Dave Felsing; and Jack Cohen, Butler County Tourism & Convention Bureau president. Butler Eagle Archive Photo

In 2007, Saxonburg’s borough council unanimously moved to become a member of “Sister Cities International,” with the intent of becoming a “Sister City” with Muhlhausen, Germany, John Roebling’s birthplace. Cohen visited Germany as a representative of the borough in 2016.

“The tourism bureau was also very supportive of the borough from the first time we had our German visitors come to Saxonburg in 2009,” said Linda Kovacik, secretary and treasurer of the Saxonburg Borough Muhlhausen Sister City Society. “Without the help of the bureau, we would have not been able to show them as much of Butler County and Pittsburgh. The bureau helped with many of their expenses and provided transportation to and from the airport and around the county.”

Cohen and the bureau also have partnered with Washington’s Trail 1753 to assist in preserving the story of George Washington's journey through Western Pennsylvania during the French and Indian War. Cohen has supported the nonprofit in lobbying for funding, and the bureau created a promotional brochure and a digital map connecting the various trail markers throughout the county. In 2022, Washington’s Trail founder, retired Judge Martin O'Brien, was recognized as Butler County's Tourism Ambassador of the Year.

Quentin and Rachel Blose of Cabot get an up-close look at an alpaca during the 2010 Butler County Farm Tour stop at Sunset Hills Alpaca Farm in Penn Township. Butler Eagle File Photo

In continuing his work with Butler’s farms and agricultural industry, Cohen assisted in creating the popular Butler County Farm Tour. Run by the bureau from 2015 to 2019, this event helped raise awareness about agritourism and was ahead of the farm-to-table movement.

To collaborate more directly with the bureau’s small businesses and farms, Cohen established the Butler Agricultural Product Alliance. This led to the creation of the bureau's Butler Basket program. This gift basket program highlights the goods of multiple Butler County small business products.

Finally, one of Cohen’s most recent projects was helping create Preston’s Pearl. This beautiful, double-deck, nature-tour pontoon is the Moraine Preservation Fund update to its 1989 boat, Nautical Nature. The bureau held a naming contest to christen the educational tour boat in 2021, and Cohen continues to serve on the Moraine Preservation Fund board.

A young child enjoys the view while Preston's Pearl docks in 2022 at Lake Arthur in Moraine State Park. Butler Eagle File Photo
Supporting the tourism industry

As someone who worked in various positions within the restaurant, entertainment and hospitality industry throughout his career, Cohen understands the important role every employee plays in making Butler County a special place to visit.

Cohen developed multiple programs that focused on finding ways to recognize and support service workers in Butler County, including the bureau's Service Excellence Award program. During the coronavirus pandemic, restaurants, hotels and other shutdown businesses needed support more than ever. The tourism bureau partnered with the Butler County commissioners and the Center for Community Resources to create a program that offered help to hospitality industry employees affected by layoffs and closures.

Casey Hoolahan is in public relations and communication with the Butler County Tourism & Convention Bureau.

Jack Cohen, president of the Butler County Tourism & Convention Bureau, speaks at the 2013 Jeep festival luncheon at VA Butler Healthcare. Butler Eagle File Photo

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