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North Hills Monthly

Community Guide: Zelienople

Jun 30, 2015 09:44PM ● By Jennifer Monahan

Memorial Park

Zelienople, which lives up to its official motto as “a modern place with an old-fashioned grace,” is lauded repeatedly by locals for retaining its small-town feel. Residents and visitors can access the town’s many family-owned shops and businesses by walking up and down Main Street. Home to about 4,000 people, the borough borders Harmony and covers just over two square miles. Borough manager Don Pepe said, “Zelienople has a culture—a soul—that’s different from other places. It moves into the future while maintaining the nostalgia and history of an earlier time.”

Zelienople celebrated its 175th anniversary at the end of May. The borough’s origins date back over 200 years, when German aristocrat, Baron Dettmar Basse, came to the New World in 1802 and purchased 10,000 acres of land in western Pennsylvania. He built a home, established a number of businesses and laid out a town, named Zelienople, for his eldest daughter Zélie. Today the town is proud to retain its historic charm while simultaneously planning for a major revitalization project to update the Main Street corridor.

Main Street Makeover
Phase one of Zelienople’s Main Street Revitalization Project is underway. One highlight of the effort is the renovation of the Kaufman House. Construction should begin by late fall, according to Jack Cohen, president of the Butler County Tourism & Convention Bureau. The landmark building dates back to 1903; moving forward it will become a restaurant and boutique hotel which will also serve as a training facility for Butler County Community College, which will provide internships in hospitality management and culinary arts. Once open in early 2017, Kaufman House is projected to create about 75 jobs and generate $2.2 million in income annually for the region.

Revitalization efforts also include a complete update of the Main Street corridor and expanded downtown parking. According to Stephen Schultz, president of the Zelienople Revitalization Committee, plans involve redoing the sidewalks, burying utility lines, replacing park benches, and providing new facades and signage for Main Street businesses. Said Schultz, “Business owners are behind this project, and people in town are excited.”

Events and Activities
“Zelienople people love parades and fireworks,” according to Pepe, and the town has an iconic Fourth of July parade that draws crowds from all over the area. The Strand Theater, built in 1914 and renovated about five years ago, has year-round entertainment including live music and theater as well as movies. It will host the Pittsburgh Philharmonic on July 4. The Community Park is a tremendous asset to Zelienople and can accommodate 500 people in festival seating at its new amphitheater, according to Pepe, who adds that plans are underway for a pool renovation and new skate park.

Zelienople is famous for Horse Trading Days, which is set for July 16-18 this year. The festival typically draws up to 40,000 people, and includes a 5K run/walk, a farmers’ market and a cornhole tournament, plus live music throughout each day and featured bands nightly. Organizer Matthew Edwards is excited about the headliners this year: popular country band NOMAD (North of Mason-Dixon); No Bad JuJu; and crowd favorite The Softwinds, a doo-wop band that has played the festival for years.

Pittsburgh’s own EggFest, scheduled for July 25, was started seven years ago at Zelienople’s Hearth and Home Furnishings, and attracted about 40 attendees. The event now draws over 300 people and is moving to Moraine State Park to accommodate the larger crowds. The Big Green Egg serves as a grill, oven and smoker; it has developed a cult-like following among self-proclaimed ‘EggHeads’ who often travel to EggFests all over the country to help prepare culinary delights for participants or just to sample for themselves the wide variety of items prepared on a Big Green Egg. The idea is to taste a little of everything prepared by the volunteer chefs, so the $15 ticket covers access to countless bite-sized temptations offered that day. Kids under 12 are free.

And don’t forget dessert! Make sure to stop into Baldinger’s Candy for hard-to-find delicacies that will delight your children—and your inner child.  

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