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VisitMercerCountyPA Celebrates Outstanding Tourism Achievements at 2019 Annual Dinner

June 5, 2019

Two of the highest honors given by VisitMercerCountyPA, the tourist promotion agency for Mercer County, PA, are the Bill and Connie Knecht Tourism Award and the James E. Winner Jr. Tourism Initiative Award.

For 2019, Karen Anderson has been selected to receive the Bill and Connie Knecht Tourism Award. Keystone Safari will receive the James E. Winner Jr. Tourism Initiative Award. These awards will be presented at the agency’s annual dinner on Wednesday, June 12, at The Corinthian Banquet Center and Event Hall in Sharon, PA.

Karen has made outstanding commitments and contributions to tourism

VisitMercerCountyPA Celebrates Outstanding Tourism Achievements at 2019 Annual Dinner
Karen Anderson

in Mercer County. Karen’s passion and commitment in her efforts to promote tourism in Mercer County are second to none.

From her time working with local companies to the many not for profit roles she’s served in, it’s her inspiring vision and leadership of WaterFire, Sharon that clearly sets the mark for receiving this award. As WaterFire Sharon’s Land Operations Manager, she oversees this world-renowned, multi-sensory event that continues to grow in both size and popularity through the tireless efforts of Karen and the people she inspires daily.

In 2018, the Pennsylvania Restaurant & Lodging Association selected WaterFire Sharon PA as their Event of the Year.

Karen has also demonstrated her excellence and initiative in tourism in her positions at Wendell August Forge. Karen has worked in various management positions with the company since 2006. She served the company as regional manager, in sales and retail operations. Her heart was broken by the fire that destroyed the flagship store in 2010.

However, she and the team at Wendell August refused to let that fire be the end of their story. Karen put in many 18-hour days to help the store recover from this loss. She willingly did whatever was needed to make the Wendell August story a success story. She successfully helped the company to move forward as a strong tourism destination in Mercer County.

Finally, as board chairman of VisitMercerCountyPA, Karen made it her goal to remove geographical divisions among the various sides of the county and to get all sides working together for the greatest benefit of tourism in Mercer County. Achieving this goal took inspiring leadership.

Today as we look at the tourism industry in Mercer County, shared ideas and cooperation to make Mercer County strong is the key consideration, not where you live or work. The four corners of the county are working together to support each other and projects that will help the tourism industry become stronger.

It is not by accident that we are seeing expansions and new developments in Mercer County. It is through the work of tourism industry leaders such as Karen that we are moving in a direction of progress and growth.

Points of recognition & service of more than 25 years:

  • Land Operations Manager, WaterFire Sharon, PA
  • Board Chairman, VisitMercerCountyPA
  • Regional Sales Director, Wendell August Forge

VisitMercerCountyPA is proud to present the 2019 Bill and Connie Knecht Tourism Award to Karen Anderson for her outstanding contributions to tourism.

The recipient of the James E. Winner Jr. Tourism Initiative Award for 2019 is

VisitMercerCountyPA Celebrates Outstanding Tourism Achievements at 2019 Annual Dinner
Guiher Family-Tanis, oldest daughter Adalynn, and Adam

Keystone Safari. The company’s vision for their Grove City, PA attraction is a shining example of the proactive and idea-driven approach to tourism that we honor the memory of James E. Winner Jr. with every year.

In the true spirit of entrepreneurship, Adam and Tanis Guiher saw an opportunity in Mercer County to create this truly unique attraction, which benefits both humans and animals alike. Based on the vast success of their sister business, Living Treasures Wild Animal Park in Lawrence County, which saw an 800% growth in 10 years, they knew the area could support another attraction of this type.

They were also outgrowing the footprint there and were limited on space, both to add new animals and to give the current animals more room to flourish. Always with an “animals come first” attitude, their dream for keystone Safari has been brought to life.

The journey started in 2013 with planning and purchasing the location and then securing various permits to build Keystone Safari. The permitting process was a major obstacle. Needing to secure permits from several agencies including Liberty Township, Mercer County Planning Commission, Mercer County Conservation District, Army Corps of Engineers and Penn DOT (just to name a few) proved extremely time-consuming and costly.

It seemed that around every corner they were faced with another permit to be approved, another meeting to attend, another cost to pay, just to be allowed to break ground. With the help of many local and state officials, local businesses and non-profits they were able to secure all of their permits and start to build in the fall of 2016. Several setbacks have occurred since, but Adam and his staff have pushed through and emerged stronger than ever with the opening of the park for the Holiday season in November and December 2018 and finally daily from 10 am to 6 pm in 2019.

Keystone Safari Highlights:

  • The Safari: Over 90 acres with 5 regional exhibits and more than 300 animals from around the world. Guests are taken on a 2-mile journey in open air safari buses to see the free-roaming species.
  • The Walk-Through Park: Over 20 acres with several live animal exhibit areas, elevated trail and encounter areas, and a traditional barnyard area. Food can be purchased for several of the animals, including the Giraffe family. The signature 6,000 square foot gift shop is where guests enter and exit the park.
  • The Zip Line Adventure Courses:
    Two Zip Line Courses:
    1. Bongo Canopy Tour: This course includes three zones that get more challenging as you progress! It includes seven zip lines and 25 obstacle challenges ranging in height up to 30 feet high in the trees. Zip-line lengths range from 75 – 212 feet! Several species of animals may be spotted along the way.
    2. Reindeer Games (opening soon): This course includes two zones that get more challenging as you progress! It includes two zip lines and 19 obstacle challenges ranging in height up to eight feet high in the trees. Zip-line lengths range from 65 – 74 feet!

The definition of entrepreneurship reads, “The capacity and willingness to develop, organize and manage a business venture along with any of its risks in order to make a profit.” But that doesn’t begin to explain what it takes to build a business from the ground up or list the roadblocks you will face along the way…Keystone Safari promotes tourism, education, conservation, economic development, and recreation and will be marketed to families with children of all ages in a 200-mile radius. What better way to honor the memory of James E. Winner Jr., than with a successful family-owned company that has pulled through countless challenges and is on the brink of driving thousands of new visitors to Mercer County!

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