Touring the County with BCTCB President Jack Cohen

With all that Butler County has to offer, it can be easy to forget how big the county actually is. Since interning at Butler County Tourism & Convention Bureau, I’ve had many opportunities to learn about members, but haven’t had the chance to go out and visit many of them. So, when Tourism Bureau President, Jack Cohen plans a day tour to visit Saxonburg and other members along the way, you get excited. Who could be a better tour guide?!
First stop, the historic site that marks near to where George Washington closely escaped death. It’s crazy to think how different things could be if Washington had not escaped death that day in 1753; as Jack mentioned, we could be speaking French today! A little further up the road we stopped at Connoquenessing Creek, where a canoe launch was recently installed. The Tourism Bureau helped fund this project. What looks like a statue of a turtle at first glimpse, darts to the water as soon as it spots us, and here I was thinking that turtles were slow.


Next on the tour is one of our members since 2003, Buttercup Woodlands Campground. With a warm welcome in the camp store, we listen to the owners, Ed and Barb Tanski, talk about the history of the campground and find out that one of the employees we met, Jacob Hogofsky, actually grew up spending his summers at the campground since he was only three years old. There is still a note that he wrote Barb when he was little, thanking her for letting him help with the cash register, tucked away in the drawer. With such a family-oriented environment, it’s clear why so many spend their weekends and summers here. 



Our next stop is the Maridon Museum, a unique museum located in downtown Butler, the only museum in this region with a specific focus on Chinese and Japanese art and culture, with a section containing genuine German Meissen porcelain, as well. The museum has a deep connection with the area, as the objects and the museum itself were a gift of Mary Hulton Phillips. Mary was one of the area’s most generous supporters of the arts, she had passion and a true eye for it. I was surprised to learn that Mary never traveled, but acquired all of the pieces in the museum through overseas buying. This fact further emphasizes her passion for Asian art and culture, even though she had never been there, the art held such a special place in her heart. Our group is treated to a unique experience here, going on a personal tour to learn the history of the art and hearing about Mary’s connection to each piece, and the passion to carry on Mary’s legacy was apparent. This museum is truly an unexpected treasure in Butler County.



Now we are off to Saxonburg. We begin our visit at the Saxonburg Museum, a vital piece in preserving and honoring Saxonburg’s rich heritage. With exhibits connecting historical artifacts to the town, Fred Caesar takes us on a tour of each room and we learn the backstory of John Roebling, designer of the Brooklyn Bridge. We take a look at the other bridges he created, some that even led to the inspiration of the Brooklyn Bridge. We even get to hold a piece of the famous wire rope he designed and created, a true piece of history. 



Inviting Fred along with us, we head to lunch, and Jack spots an antique shop across the street. As the bureau is membership based, with a mission of promoting Butler County as an attractive tourism and business destination, we are always looking for new businesses to help achieve this goal. Although this shop is not currently a member of the bureau, we get to see Jack in action as he speaks to the two women about helping their vision for the little shop. In this short conversation with these local business owners, Jack’s passion for the industry is clear. 



We make our way to Hotel Saxonburg, considered one of the finest dining experiences in town, and it does not disappoint. The building and its decor create a casually elegant atmosphere, with the staff and excellent food completing the experience. Although the entire menu was to drool over, the soup and salad caught everyone’s attention. I enjoyed a Caesar salad, with enough to take home for dinner, while others at the table raved about the Lobster Bisque, definitely one of the best in the area. 



After ordering, but before eating, our lunch, we run (speed walk) down the street to Mainstreet Bake Shop, a new bakery featuring gorgeous wedding cakes and various other desserts. They actually supply Hotel Saxonburg with its dessert menu, but we wanted to visit the shop so we could meet the owner. We are warmly welcomed with brownies as big as our faces, cakes covered in rainbow flowers and other delicious-looking baked goods. We talk to the owner, Megan Roth, about what’s upcoming for the bakery, while Jack orders four brownies, and a special treat for himself, for us to enjoy after lunch. As we had to get back to our table at Hotel Saxonburg before our lunch arrived, our stop was short and sweet, for sure. 


Sitting down to lunch with Jack was an experience in itself, hearing about what got him started in this business that has allowed him so much success. He advocates having fun every day of your life and that you should always love what you’re doing. His passion for the industry is clear through all of his stories, and if it were really up to Jack, we would visit all of our members on this adventure! But, our tour is coming to an end, and our final stop is Speckled Hen Chocolate Company.

Upon arriving, we are greeted and taken down to the production room, hairnets and all, and offered samples that we can’t refuse. Dipping Swedish fish into a huge, swirling pot of milk chocolate, we are pleasantly surprised as this is a unique combination we haven’t tried before. It’s the perfect way to end our tour, hearing one of the owners, Valerie Cannon, talk with such passion about what she does, and after all, this was the point of our tour today.

Butler County Tourism & Convention Bureau works to promote the unique aspects of Butler County and to attract tourists to the area. The reason we work so hard to do this is for the people, our members, who are working so hard to make their businesses the best they can be. I’m grateful that Jack provided this opportunity to get an inside look at some of our members in action. It was such a valuable experience with Jack as our tour guide, and one that will definitely be remembered as we use this opportunity to better our future work for our awesome members!