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June 8, 2017
Mercer, PA – Two of the highest honors given by VisitMercerCountyPA, the tourist promotion agency for Mercer County, PA, are the Bill Knecht Tourism Award and the James E. Winner Jr. Tourism Initiative Award. For 2017, George Kraynak has been selected to receive the Bill Knecht Tourism Award and John and Robin Raskob, owners of Big Dog RC, will receive the James E. Winner Jr. Tourism Initiative Award. These awards will be presented at the agency’s annual dinner on Thursday, June 15, 2017, at Irons Mill Farmstead in New Wilmington, PA.
VisitMercerCountyPA is proud to present the 2017 Bill Knecht Tourism Award to George Kraynak for his outstanding contributions to tourism. Several decades ago, there was a new marketing alliance in Mercer County. This alliance included Jim Winner, Bill Knecht, Pete Daffin, George Kraynak, and later, Harry Jubelirer. They became known as the Five Friends.
They realized that if they joined forces and pooled their money, they could initiate a massive television campaign throughout a larger market radius to promote Mercer County. As the founding fathers of the tourism bureau, it was their successful early efforts that spread the message beyond their borders to Pittsburgh, Cleveland and Erie.
Bill Knecht Tourism Award
As a tourism destination, Mercer County, PA has remained viable and strong, in no small measure due to George Kraynak. Kraynak’s, established in 1949, is itself a destination, with three distinct divisions, which house and sell products at both retail and wholesale. People come from far and wide to visit Kraynak’s Santa’s Christmasland and the Easter Bunny Lane. From September through December, Santa’s Christmasland draws approximately 3,000 visitors each week. Easter Bunny Lane runs from February through the week after Easter and also attracts visitors from throughout a tri-state region and Canada.
George Kraynak’s businesses have grown many times over and reflect his vision of leadership, the fullness of his heart, and the strength of his mind. His is a family-owned business that promotes fair pricing, quality products, and full-service. George has been a leader in tourism for many years and has been passionate in promoting and putting Mercer County on the map.
James E. Winner Jr. Tourism Initiative Award
The recipient of the James E. Winner Jr. Tourism Initiative Award for 2017 is Big Dog RC. This award pays tribute to tourism-related businesses in Mercer County, PA that are proactive and idea driven. These businesses don’t simply seize opportunities as they arise, they create them. They rise to the challenges facing them and emerge stronger and more resilient. The James E. Winner Jr. Tourism Initiative Award honors the spirit of entrepreneurship that make these businesses successful.
Big Dog RC, under the leadership of John and Robin Raskob, have demonstrated that they are proactive, idea-driven and ready to take on a challenge. Big Dog RC, in Stoneboro, PA, is celebrating its seventh year in business as one of the premier RC Racing facilities in the country.
“There are many indoor RC race tracks around the country,” said John Raskob, who owns the business with his wife Robin. “However, only Big Dog RC offers an indoor dirt oval and off-road track, carpet oval and on-road track, truck and tractor pull track, outdoor tracks, full hobby shop, pit areas and snack bar, all in one place!”
Every week, year-round, the business averages over 200 racer entries from four states. They run Four Points Series events every year, with trophies for all participants. There are also special events every quarter for drivers. Last year, Big Dog RC awarded over 1,000 trophies in 20 different classes of racing. RC racing has National Championships, World Championships and factory paid drivers that make a living driving RC Cars.
“We have drivers as young as five, all the way up to people in their 70s that race, so it’s definitely a life-long hobby,” said John. There are families where mom, dad, brother and sister all have cars. Big Dog RC is more of an attraction and entertainment than a hobby shop with a racetrack. When people stop in they are amazed at how popular RC racing is. Year-round, especially in the winter, it can be “standing room only” on Saturdays during racing,” he said.
It’s not bad for a business that just started seven years ago. For their resourcefulness and entrepreneurial spirit, VisitMercerCountyPA is proud to present the James E. Winner Jr. Tourism Initiative Award to Big Dog RC.
This annual dinner includes a popular auction with a stunning array of items and gifts that will be auctioned off, including travel, art, jewelry, overnight stays, golf, and more. The proceeds from the auction will go to the Bill Knecht Tourism Scholarship. Those looking for a great deal won’t want to miss this auction.
For more information on the annual dinner, call 724-346-3771. Entertainment will be provided by “Voices” featuring Rudy Zetz, Janet Falotico, and Sharon Grey.