2024 PA Wilds Champion Awards winners announced, registration open for dinner


2024 PA Wilds Champion Awards winners announced

Registration now open for July 25 Dinner & Awards to be held at University of Pittsburgh in Bradford


The PA Wilds Center for Entrepreneurship, Inc. (PA Wilds Center) is pleased to announce the recipients of the 2024 Champions of the PA Wilds Awards. The 2024 Champions are –

  • Artisan of the Year: Lynn Kibbe
  • Best Brand Ambassador: Starr Hill Vineyard and Winery
  • Business of the Year: Mountain Top and Provisions
  • Conservation Stewardship: Watershed Conservation Program of Western Pennsylvania Conservancy
  • Event of the Year: Jakes Rocks Trail Fest
  • Great Design: Bald Birds Brewing
  • Great Places: Zippo/Case Museum
  • Inspiring Youth: Brandy Schimp and Kane PTO
  • Outstanding Leader: Joshua Zucal
  • PA Wilds Planning Team Member of the Year: Will Hunt, Potter County Planner & GIS Director

The winners will be honored at the 2024 PA Wilds Dinner & Awards, to be held on Thursday, July 25, at the University of Pittsburgh at Bradford. The theme for this year’s dinner is “The Road Less Traveled Makes All the Difference,” nodding to the Declaration of Principles for the Pennsylvania Wilds.

The Champion of the Pennsylvania Wilds Awards celebrate individuals, organizations, communities and businesses that are making significant contributions to grow and sustainably develop the outdoor recreation economy and nature tourism in the Pennsylvania Wilds. There are nine award categories open for public nominations. Nominations for 2024 awards were due by April 1.

“It was difficult for the selection committee to choose winners this year, because there were so many high-quality nominations,” said Beth Pellegrino, PA Wilds Center Board Member and Outreach Committee chair. “These individuals, businesses, and organizations go above and beyond. They truly embody the values of the PA Wilds Center, and we are eager to spend the evening on July 25 taking some time to elevate their stories and celebrate how they continue to make the PA Wilds region a fantastic place to live, work, and travel.”

Registration is now open for the 2024 PA Wilds Dinner & Awards, which will be held at the University of Pittsburgh in Bradford, McKean County, on Thursday, July 25. The social hour and exhibitor displays begin at 3 p.m., followed by dinner and award presentations between 5 and 9 p.m. 

Pre-registration is required by 5 p.m. ET July 17 at PAWildsCenter.org/program. Early bird registration of $30 per ticket is available until 5 p.m. ET June 20. After June 20, the cost is $35 per ticket.




Artisan of the Year Award: Lynn Kibbe – Trout Run, Lycoming County

Lynn Kibbe was selected as the recipient of the 2024 PA Wilds Artisan of the Year Champion Award. The Artisan of the Year Award honors a PA Wilds Juried Artisan who has gone above and beyond to use their medium and creativity to promote the region or help advance The Wilds Cooperative of PA. Kibbe is a professional Visual Artisan in the Wilds Cooperative of PA who specializes in the art of scratchboard, in which parts of a dark board are scraped away little by little to create the artwork. Her subjects are almost exclusively wildlife and nature. Kibbe herself is a living example of being able to follow a dream as an artisan in a rural place, having left her job as a paralegal to pursue scratchboard art full-time. Kibbe is an advocate for the PA Wilds region and the Wilds Cooperative of PA, often speaking about it during her regional exhibits, workshops, and teaching seminars. Kibbe also sells her products on the PA Wilds Marketplace at ShopThePAWilds.com.


Best Brand Ambassador: Starr Hill Vineyard and Winery – Curwensville, Clearfield County

Starr Hill Vineyard and Winery has won the 2024 PA Wilds Best Brand Ambassador Champion Award for their recent Squatch N Berry wine collaboration. The Best Brand Ambassador Award honors an organization or individual who has made significant contributions to promote and develop the PA Wilds brand through logo use, place name recognition, branded product development, storytelling, event or experience packaging or similar efforts. The playful theme of Sasquatch in Starr Hill’s huckleberry-flavored grape wine acknowledges the popularity of the cryptid. The wine was so popular that it is now being produced in cans, along with the traditional bottles. In addition to raising awareness about the PA Wilds through its distribution, a portion of proceeds from each Squatch N Berry sold supports the mission of the PA Wilds Center for Entrepreneurship, which is to integrate conservation and economic development in a way that strengthens and inspires communities of the PA Wilds region. 


Business of the Year: Mountain Top and Provisions – Haneyville, Clinton County

Mountain Top and Provisions has been named the recipient of the 2024 PA Wilds Business of the Year Champion Award, which honors a new or existing business that has taken bold steps to grow their business in a way that embodies what it means to marry conservation and economic development and to offer an authentic experience or product to visitors and residents. This restaurant and market offers live-fire cooking and smoked foods, smoked only with Pennsylvania hardwoods. The wooden walls and rafters of the building reflect the beauty and lumber heritage of the PA Wilds, inspired by the mess halls of the lumber era. Mountain Top and Provisions operates as a central hub for outdoor enthusiasts, providing tasty meals, events and live music, and recommendations for experiences around the region.


Conservation Stewardship: Watershed Conservation Program of Western Pennsylvania Conservancy – Offices in Elk County and Indiana County, serving the Upper Allegheny and West Branch Susquehanna regions

The Watershed Conservation Program of Western Pennsylvania Conservancy was selected as the recipient of the 2024 PA Wilds Conservation Stewardship Champion Award, which honors the best practices and achievements of an individual, business or organization that demonstrates a commitment to conservation and outstanding resource stewardship of the natural and cultural assets in the PA Wilds. The Western Pennsylvania Conservancy (WPC) Elk County office serves the Upper Allegheny and West Branch Susquehanna regions, coordinating with county, state, and federal agencies and local non-government conservation organizations to improve public lands throughout the PA Wilds region through a variety of projects, programs and services. WPC improves aquatic organism habitat in state parks, on game lands, and in the Allegheny National Forest. WPC has implemented numerous stream-crossing replacements and has installed traditional stream habitat improvement structures on game lands and state parks. WPC has completed more than 1,500 assessments of road-stream intersections in the PA Wilds region, collaborated with stakeholders to restore aquatic organism passage at more than 15 locations and worked with partners to complete abandoned mine land and abandoned mine drainage projects.  Recently WPC was awarded $1.9 million in funding from the Bureau of Abandoned Mine Reclamation to construct an AMD treatment system on West Creek in Saint Marys, the result of a years-long effort led by the Elk County Conservation District. WPC has also funded 28 public access improvement projects in the PA Wilds through the Canoe Access Development Fund.


Event of the Year: Jakes Rocks Trail Fest – Warren, Warren County

The Jakes Rocks Trail Fest earned the 2024 PA Wilds Event of the Year Champion Award, which recognizes a festival, race, art show or other local or regional event in the PA Wilds which through its quality and authenticity and use of the PA Wilds brand has become a regional attraction that is having a positive economic and social impact on the area. The Trails at Jakes Rocks, where the festival is held, draws in more than 30,000 people annually to Warren County and is a star asset in the PA Wilds. The Jakes Rocks Trail Fest is in its 8th year in 2024 and has seen the number of participants grow to a record high of more than 700 people in 2023. The event continues to grow, positively impacting the local economy during the entire weekend. The Trails at Jakes Rocks utilizes local, regional, and national partners and encompasses 35.2 miles of world-class trails in the heart of the Allegheny National Forest and the PA Wilds. The trail was named as the 2024 Pennsylvania Trail of the Year, highlighting its popularity with mountain bikers, hikers, and nature lovers.


Great Design: Bald Birds Brewing Company – Jersey Shore, Lycoming County

Bald Birds Brewing Company in Jersey Shore is the winner of the 2024 PA Wilds Great Design Champion Award, which honors an individual, business or organization that has done outstanding work to preserve, protect or enhance an area’s rural community character and to promote the use and understanding of the PA Wilds Design Guide. Bald Birds is located in the 153,000-square-foot former Woolrich warehouse. Bald Birds transformed the former warehouse into a brewery-goer’s paradise. The facility is home to a 7,000-square-foot taproom, a 10,000-square-foot wedding and event venue, outdoor seating and gaming areas, two golf simulators, and a 90,000-square-foot production brewery. The creative adaptive reuse of the former warehouse helped lessen the impact of development on the natural environment, and the design incorporates overhangs, recessed openings, and other features like stylistic garage bay doors to emphasize the entrance areas and create connectivity between indoor/outdoor spaces. These efforts are directly in line with recommendations in the PA Wilds Design Guide for Community Character Stewardship. The building successfully pays homage to Jersey Shore’s history and industry, while envisioning the warehouse with a new tourism and hospitality angle. Bald Birds Brewing hosted the PA Wilds Dinner & Awards banquet in 2022.


Great Places: Zippo/Case Museum – Bradford, McKean County

The Zippo/Case Museum in Bradford earned the 2024 PA Wilds Great Places Champion Award, which honors innovative asset development and promotion that have worked together to create an excellent new or revamped sustainable tourism destination within the PA Wilds. The Zippo/Case Museum tells the story of two American icons – both based in Bradford, PA – through an extensive collection of priceless Zippo and Case artifacts. The museum’s exhibits include the very first Zippo lighter, an exploration of Zippo and Case’s American military history, the world-famous Zippo Repair Clinic, and a replica of the first knife to go to the moon! The Zippo/Case Museum hosts more than 50,000 visitors annually, bringing visitors to the PA Wilds and encouraging them to explore the history and innovation of the region.


Inspiring Youth: Brandy Schimp and Kane PTO – Kane, McKean County

Brandy Schimp, the mayor of Kane, and the Kane Parent Teacher Organization (PTO) have been named the recipients of the 2024 PA Wilds Inspiring Youth Champion Award, which honors a person or organization that has made outstanding contributions to involve young people in the work to grow the region’s outdoor recreation economy and to conserve its unparalleled natural and cultural resource assets. In addition to being mayor, Schimp serves as the PTO President. In 2023, the Kane PTO revamped the annual Christmas Store in the elementary school, focusing on the importance of buying locally and supporting artists within the PA Wilds. Instead of purchasing low-quality items online for students to buy for Christmas presents, they collaborated with artists in the PA Wilds. The PTO purchased small items from these artists and offered items at different price points so every student could buy something. The artists were compensated, and students got the chance to learn more about how spending dollars locally helps the Kane economy. The PTO was also fortunate enough to receive funding from a generous donor that allowed each child to have $5 to spend at the store, ensuring all students could shop for their families and have a positive learning and gifting experience.


Outstanding Leader: Joshua Zucal – Emporium, Cameron County

Joshua Zucal has been named the 2024 PA Wilds Outstanding Leader Champion Award recipient. The Outstanding Leader Award honors a person, organization, business or elected official that has used their platform to advocate for outdoor recreation economic growth in the PA Wilds as a way to create jobs, diversify local economies, inspire stewardship and improve quality of life. Zucal is in his first year as a Cameron County Commissioner, and prior to being elected he served as the Marketing Director for the county. Some of his efforts included the Look Up Cameron County campaign, encouraging travelers to view the stars in Cameron County, and he is actively developing a location near Emporium as a Dark Sky viewing area. Zucal has also worked to improve and designate gravel roads as biking opportunities in Cameron County. As an entrepreneur, Zucal and his wife also run two businesses and contribute to the Cameron County economy.


PA Wilds Planning Team Member of the Year: Will Hunt – Potter County

Will Hunt is the recipient of the 2024 PA Wilds Planning Team Member of the Year Champion Award, which honors individuals who have made exemplary contributions to the work of the PA Wilds Planning Team. In his role as Potter County Planner, GIS, and Community Development Director, Hunt oversees the Potter County Planning, Community Development and GIS Department and various efforts to create new and unique economic opportunities for the county. As an advocate of outdoor recreation and preservation of the character of the PA Wilds, he organized the ATV taskforce which engages regional partners and stakeholders, ensuring a thoughtful balance of outdoor recreation within the landscape. Hunt has also developed the county’s land use ordinance to incorporate PA Wilds Design Guide standards, ensuring the preservation of the community’s dark skies and natural beauty. He serves as a core member and current chair of the PA Wilds Planning Team, one of the largest and longest-standing governance structures around the PA Wilds effort. The Planning Team, formed in 2006 through a groundbreaking Intergovernmental Cooperation Agreement (ICA), brings together the region’s county governments, and many other economic development and conservation partners to work on regional planning related to outdoor recreation development.



The Pennsylvania Wilds is a 13-county region that includes the counties of Cameron, Clarion, Clearfield, Clinton, Elk, Forest, Jefferson, Lycoming, McKean, Potter, Tioga, Warren, and northern Centre. The PA Wilds Center for Entrepreneurship, Inc., is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization whose mission is to integrate conservation and economic development in a way that inspires the communities of the Pennsylvania Wilds. The PA Wilds Center promotes the region as a premier outdoor recreation destination as a way to diversify local economies, inspire stewardship, attract investment, retain population and improve quality of life. The PA Wilds Center’s core programs seek to help businesses leverage the PA Wilds brand and connect with new market opportunities, including: the Wilds Cooperative of PA, a network of over 300 place-based businesses and organizations, and the PA Wilds Conservation Shop, a retail outlet primarily featuring products sourced from the WCO. For more information on the PA Wilds Center, visit www.PAWildsCenter.org. To learn more about the WCO, visit www.WildsCoPA.org. Explore the PA Wilds at www.pawilds.com. Find regionally made products at www.ShopThePAWilds.com


Media Contact

Britt Madera | Communications Manager

PA Wilds Center for Entrepreneurship, Inc.

[email protected]  |  570-948-1051



  1. Lynn Kibbe on May 23, 2024 at 12:12 pm

    Thank you so much for this great honor!!!!

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.