– In response to state permitting issues that ultimately resulted in the downgrade of the annual Susquehannock Trail Performance Rally (STPR) from a national to regional event, state and local officials gathered in front of the Wellsboro Area Chamber of Commerce building Thursday to pledge their unified support for the popular event that has been taking place annually since the 1970s.
“We are here today for one reason – to make it incredibly clear that the folks standing here today and many others support and want to see the STPR continue here in Tioga and Potter counties,” Owlett said. “We literally have folks from around the world coming here to watch a very unique race that is growing in popularity. And when they come, they not only get to enjoy the gift we have with our forest, but they bring an unbelievable amount of economic activity to our region.”
Those impacts will be significantly lessened by the scaled back race made necessary by the lack of efficient cooperation from state agencies, Owlett noted.
James Monks, STPR chairman, said downgrading the event to a regional competition means that instead of 80-90 cars participating, they will likely see about 20. He expects a few hundred fans rather than the few thousand who typically visit the area for the rally.
“Our goal as STPR is to return to national status in 2022, and with the support we have here today we are excited to make that happen,” he said.
Marsha Chesko, a former hotel owner in Wellsboro, explained that her facility was always full with a waiting list during the race and that events like it not only bring people to the area for the events themselves. They often come back and bring others with them to also experience all the area has to offer.
Jerry Curreri, owner of Timeless Destination, said he typically sees a 45% increase in gross sales when the race is in town, but it’s not just the loss in his business that concerns him but the impact on the people he employs. He said his general manager and bar manager would have made an additional $500-$1,000 during the race, money they would have spent locally to pay for their housing, food and supplies for their children.
“It’s not about Timeless not doing an additional 45% in gross sales,” Curreri said. “It’s the 24 people who work for me who are members of this community who are damaged every time decisions are made by anonymous people to them and to me.”
Julie Henry, executive director of the Wellsboro Chamber of Commerce, and Dawn Hall, executive director of the Mansfield Chamber of Commerce, also stressed the long-term economic impact of events like STPR across the region and the need to ensure its return to national status in 2022.
Tioga County Commissioner Erick Coolidge, speaking on behalf of all three commissioners, expressed the need to embrace events like STPR and to work together to bring similar opportunities to the area in the future.
Sen. Cris Dush (R-25) emphasized the importance of bringing people to the region and sharing the treasures Tioga County and northcentral Pennsylvania have to offer and pledged his support moving forward.
Congressman Fred Keller was unable to attend the press conference but offered the following statement: “The Susquehannock Trail Performance Rally is an economic driver for our communities in Potter and Tioga counties, bringing in revenue and tourism every year. Especially given the economic effects of the past year. Incredibly slow action by the Wolf administration is unacceptable, and now a huge letdown for local businesses, many of which are still struggling to rebound from prolonged shutdown orders. I am hopeful the rally will be back next year and will continue working with state and local partners to protect the future of this important event.”
In closing the press conference, Owlett reiterated the groups support of STPR and pledged to do all he could to address permitting and other delays because government should have a customer service role, always looking for ways to better serve Pennsylvanians.