Johnstown Bucket List

Terri Oleary as the Johnstown Inclined Plane completing one more stop on her Johnstown Bucket List, 2019.

Last year, over the Fourth of July holiday, Terrie O’Leary and her husband were enjoying breakfast with friends at Pamela’s Diner in Pittsburgh. “One of them mentioned they were working through a bucket list,” O’Leary says. “I asked, ‘What do you get if you complete the list?’ The answer was, ‘Nothing. It’s just a fun thing to do.’”

Already having received notice of her upcoming participation in John B. Gunter Community Leadership Initiative, O’Leary recalls looking at her husband and saying, “That’s going to be my Gunter project, only we need to have a prize.”

Cambria Regional Chamber’s John B. Gunter Community Leadership Initiative begins in September and ends in May. The initiative gives local employers an opportunity to “reward and invest in their employees” by enrolling them in the program; participants expand their networks, learn more about the region and then work together in teams for the region’s greater good. 

When the Gunter session commenced in September 2018, O’Leary pitched her idea for a team project titled Greater Johnstown Ultimate Bucket List Challenge. O’Leary’s intention with the project was to give tourists an incentive to see — and locals an opportunity to remind themselves — what the city of Johnstown and its surrounding communities has to offer.

“In my own experiences with social media, I would see a lot of negative comments about our town from its own residents and I wanted to try and counteract that negativity by creating positive social media moments while featuring the places and events that make Johnstown a unique place to live,” O’Leary says. 

O’Leary and her team members, Mistie Stewart, senior manager for Goodwill of Southern Alleghenies, and Megan Detwiler, small business solutions specialist for First Commonwealth Bank, spent the next nine months developing the Greater Johnstown Ultimate Bucket List Challenge. 

“I was excited to be an integral part in a project that supports our local economy by promoting tourism and engaging the locals in things they might not have known about if it weren’t for the list,” Detwiler says. “To me, this was a great way to learn about all Greater Johnstown has to offer. Instead of ‘there’s nothing to do,’ we found there is almost ‘too much to do.’” 

So how to frame the list, given all the things to see and do? O’Leary, Stewart and Detwiler received helpful input from Lisa Rager, executive director of the Greater Johnstown/Cambria County Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB). “Lisa was at one of our Gunter sessions and showed the class more than 100 things to do and see in Greater Johnstown,” O’Leary says. “We had to narrow that list down to make the challenge manageable for us and for participants. We didn’t want to make it too difficult to complete. We landed on just doing a nice cross section of locations and events with the forward-thinking idea that there will be more versions of the Bucket List down the road, like a new version being introduced every so often with new locations and events.” 

The complete list of 30 different locations, landmarks and events on the Greater Johnstown Ultimate Bucket List Challenge is as follows (and is in no particular order): The Inclined Plane, including the hiking and biking trail; Johnstown Flood Museum; Ghost Town Trail; Johnstown Area Heritage Discovery Center; Harrigan’s Café and Wine Deck; Thunder in the Valley; 1st Summit Arena at Cambria County War Memorial events; Rock Run Recreation Park; downtown Johnstown Central Park events; Stackhouse Park; Green Gables/Mountain Playhouse; Cambria City Cultural District, including B&L Winery, Venue of Merging Arts, Bottle Works—Arts on Third Avenue, Back Door Café, The Grand Halle, PolkaFest, Cambria City Ethnic Festival; Stonycreek River and White Water Park; Roxbury Bandshell; Coney Island; Highland Park mountain bike trails; Stone Bridge Brewing Company; walking tour of the Johnstown Flood sites; Mount Assisi Gardens; Point Park and Stone Bridge; Staple Bend Tunnel; Jim Mayer Riverwalk Trail; Flight 93 National Memorial; Blue Knob State Park; Blaine Boring Chocolates; Cambria County Community Arts Center; The Arcadia Theater; Sandyvale Memorial Gardens and Dog Park; Sargent’s Stadium at the Point; and Escape Rooms Johnstown.

“Our goal is to create awareness of historical, cultural and recreational opportunities we have within our region,” O’Leary says. “We want visitors to fall in love with Johnstown and residents to feel a sense of community pride.” 

Greater Johnstown Ultimate Bucket List Challenge officially launched May 17 and is steadily gaining traction on Instagram, the social media platform which users must use to complete their list. 

Those interested in participating are encouraged to choose 20 of 30 locations on the aforementioned list, and then print out a playing card at www.visitjohnstownpa.com/jtownbucketlist or pick one up in person at one of a dozen select locations in the city.  

At each Bucket List location, participants should take a photo (a general photo of the chosen location is fine, but group photos and selfies are encouraged) and upload it to Instagram. The Greater Johnstown Ultimate Bucket List Challenge’s Instagram handle is @jtownbucketlist and the hashtag is #jtownbucketlist.

“We designed the list so participants can go at their own pace,” Detwiler says. “There really is no expiration date. You can customize the list to what you want to do and see.”  

Stewart adds, “The list is also perfect for anyone who visits Johnstown, youth groups, families, sports teams, etc. The challenge creates a sense of adventure for those who crave more.” 

The prize for those who complete Greater Johnstown Ultimate Bucket List Challenge is an olive-colored t-shirt that O’Leary describes as “soft and comfy.” 

“Having a prize was key because it makes it more of a challenge with an end goal,” O’Leary says. “We wanted to give participants something fun for posting their photos and helping us spread positive moments on social media while promoting our communities.” 

The t-shirt prize also functions as a “walking promotion,” O’Leary says (the Greater Johnstown Ultimate Bucket List Challenge logo is on the front, and the complete list of locations on the back) and the color is one that “truly looks good on everyone.” 

Olivia Wright Bragdon, communications coordinator at CVB, says she’s grateful for all of the work that O’Leary, Detwiler and Stewart put into the project. “These ladies worked hard to make this a fun, social activity,” Bragdon says. “This project has done a great job of creating buzz. People are excited to take part in it, and it aligns perfectly with the mission of the CVB. We promote activities and attractions within Cambria County. Engaging locals is also important to us. We love user-generated content, specifically people doing fun things in Cambria County.” 

O’Leary, Stewart and Detwiler have partnered with CVB, Vision 2025, Discover Downtown Partnership and Cambria Regional Chamber to help them promote Greater Johnstown Ultimate Bucket List Challenge. 

Currently, all of the information about Greater Johnstown Ultimate Bucket List Challenge — including a helpful list of FAQ’s — is housed on the CVB website at www.visitjohnstownpa.com/jtownbucketlist. 

“The beauty of this project is that it’s not really about completing the list,” O’Leary says. “Sure, we want people to do it because it’s fun, but even if you can’t complete it, if you just posted one photo using the hashtag, it helps our cause. It promotes the great things about living here and being part of this community. It will create positive, feel-good moments for our town and for the people who visit here. And that’s really what we set out to do with this project.” 

Also worth noting are the three other meaningful projects that came out of the 2018-2019 John B. Gunter Community Leadership Initiative: Work Force Ready, a program designed to instruct and provide information to high school juniors and seniors in order to help them learn how to write resumes/cover letters, prepare for interviews and learn basic money management skills; the development of a sustaining fund for the board representing The Needy Children Shopping Tour (NCST), a 60-year-old non-profit organization that provides children with clothing, shoes, and winter outerwear; and the Gunter Ghost Town Trail Project, which worked to create family friendly rest areas along strategic spots on Ghost Town Trail and to generate increased interest in local trails and recreational tourism. 

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