It seems like just yesterday we watched the ball drop and made New Year’s resolutions, and now it’s time again! From new businesses to special events to all of the little things in between, let’s take a look back at some Butler County highlights of 2017.
2017 was filled with exciting events; from arts festivals to Oktoberfests, there was something going on every week! Butler Downtown played host to a new event, Foodie Friday, offering food and drinks from local businesses and food trucks one Friday a month so everyone could get a taste of Butler. Also offering live music, this event brought the community together and plans to get even more people involved next year. Historic Harmony hosted its first In Harmony Heritage Music Festival, featuring music inspired by the town’s extensive musical heritage. The first Butler Italian Festival was a celebration of all things Italian, from music to food to wine. UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex hosted the USHL Fall Classic, where players from all over the country come to showcase their talent for recruiters. The American Veterans Traveling Tribute arrived in Butler County with its Vietnam Memorial Wall replica for visitors to pay their respects. Butler A.M. Rotary's Carved in Ice wowed as ice sculpture works of art were created right in front of people’s eyes.
The Portersville Steam Shows, hosted in spring, summer and fall, attracted visitors with activities for the whole family like tractor pulling, steam engines, a vintage village and more. The Big Butler Fair, one of Western PA’s biggest fairs, was held over the 4th of July and excited its crowd with nine days of music, rides, food and of course, fireworks. Thousands of Jeeps rolled into town for the 7th Annual Bantam Jeep Festival, a tribute event that gathers enthusiasts at Cooper’s Lake to promote the vehicle’s past and current lifestyle, while honoring its birthplace of Butler. The Rodfathers’ Cruise-A-Palooza celebrated the good times, music and vehicles of the 50s and 60s with thousands of antique cars and trucks on display. The Regatta at Lake Arthur sailed into its 19th year providing a free weekend of eco-recreational activities for guests. The North Washington Volunteer Fire Department entertained its audience with the annual North Washington Rodeo, and the Saxonburg Volunteer Fire Company Carnival amused its crowd with a fireman water battle and more.
Mars made another orbit around the sun and Mars, PA celebrated with its Mars New Year celebration, along with representatives from NASA. NASA scientists and astronauts helped to set up displays and conduct educational programs focusing on fun STEAM activities (science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics). As it takes Mars twice as long to orbit the sun as Earth, the next celebration will take off in 2019. The Living Dead Weekend celebrated the late George A. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead with movie site tours, celebrity appearances and film screenings. The Butler Farm Show showcased Butler’s farming community with animals, exhibits and demonstrations, and the Butler County Farm Tour gave visitors the opportunity to drive-it-themself and visit farms around the county to meet the hardworking faces who grow and harvest their food. Harmony Museum’s annual Weihnachtsmarkt, a Christmas market in the German tradition, offered seasonal shopping in a family-fun atmosphere, getting everyone in the holiday spirit.
Butler County welcomed new breweries Cellar Works Brewing Company, Recon Brewing and Missing Links Brewery, which you can find on the Butler County Beer Circuit, a listing of our local breweries that makes it easy for visitors to find just what they’re looking for. Other breweries include Butler Brew Works, North Country Brewing Company, Reclamation Brewing, ShuBrew and Stick City Brewing (coming soon). ShuBrew also introduced a new taproom, The ShuBrewery, expanding the circuit into Harmony.
Some more new things that 2017 brought were two escape rooms, Butler’s Great Escape and Mystery Mayhem Escapes located in Slippery Rock. The Starlight Drive-In constructed an 18 hole mini golf course for guests, and they are building a stage for local bands to perform free shows to the public next year. The Lightning Bug opened two 18 hole outdoor mini golf courses, in addition to its indoor course. Alameda Park is completing a new downhill bike track that will be 13 miles once completed, in addition to its other newly constructed mountain bike trail. Allegheny Aquatic Alliance constructed another canoe launch in Renfrew, the Eckstein Canoe Launch, with other recent launches including the Renfrew Canoe Launch, the Major Washington Canoe Launch in Evans City and the Wild Waterways Canoe Launch in Harmony, all serving as public accesses and boat launches to the Connoquenessing Creek, a nominee for Pennsylvania’s 2018 River of the Year.
As our local businesses and residents made so much positive impact this year, Butler County Tourism initiated the Service Excellence Award to seek out and give recognition to people in the workplace who go above and beyond. The top three finalists included a server from Red Lobster, Esther Cochran, a Saxonburg Volunteer Firefighter, Ken Ferguson, and a hostess from Natili North, Beka Souzer. Our grand prize winner was Esther Cochran, who has served at Red Lobster for twenty years, with her extraordinary customer service skills and professionalism standing out. We also introduced 30 Days of Giveaways around the holidays, giving people a chance to get out and try what our local businesses have to offer.
Overall, it’s been a great year filled with so many new and exciting things here in Butler County. Don’t forget to wrap up 2017 with Harmony’s Silvester New Year’s Eve celebration on German time, 6 PM, and start off 2018 right with a First Night Hike at Jennings Environmental Education Center and a First Day Hike at Moraine State Park. We can’t wait to see what 2018 will bring, Happy New Year!