With an auction looming in the summer of 2016, John and Kathy Heinze’s daughter picked up the phone and arranged a meeting between her parents and Mike and Kate Kennedy.
It didn’t take long for the families to get to know each other.
“We put the deal together and we have been so thankful to the Heinze family because this is an evolution. This isn’t a change of ownership. This is a change of custody. They’re still involved,” Kennedy said.
The next step in the evolution of Allenberry Resort took place Friday with a ribbon-cutting to mark the grand re-opening of the renovated landmark.
The festivities continue Saturday with a grand opening celebration from 12 to 4 p.m. Events include property tours, beer and cider tasting, refreshments for sale, giveaways, drawings, kids’ activities, games, a performance by the Allenberry Playhouse Players, live music by Jackson Howard and Mockingbird, hayrides, s’mores in the new fire pits, fly fishing clinic by TCO, crafts, and dinner and drink specials in the Barn.
Kennedy said he hoped people would be impressed by the new resort, touting the site as suited for corporate retreats as well as for midweek getaways, holiday parties and other special events.
The resort features 20 buildings to provide overnight accommodations, meeting rooms, entertainment and wedding venues. It also features the Barn restaurant, Changes Salon and Day Spa, and a gift shop at which visitors may buy the renowned Allenberry sticky buns.
“This is a special and meaningful day for all of us. Allenberry has been a part of this community since the Revolutionary War really,” Kennedy said.
In 1778, James Crockett, uncle of Davey Crockett, bought the 57-acre property overlooking Yellow Breeches Creek. Four of the buildings on the property date back to that era. Charles A.B. Heinze purchased the property in 1944 and developed the resort and playhouse along the Yellow Breeches Creek.
“He had a gut instinct that this would work. He made friends easily, and people trusted him. He did a lot of really interesting things way ahead of his time,” Kennedy said.
Charles Heinze had a vision when he saw the property, and Kennedy had a similar vision 72 years later, Kathy Heinze said.
“We’re very, very thrilled. The fact that you’re all going to help this property to be a part of central Pennsylvania and part of the hospitality business is fantastic,” she said.
John Heinze agreed, saying there is a great satisfaction in knowing that the resort is going to continue. There’s also a sense of expectation in watching the progress as the community begins to rediscover the resort.
“This is a great day for us. We’re happy to see this kind of commitment,” he said.
Congressman Scott Perry, state Rep. Dawn Keefer, Cumberland County Commissioner Vincent DiFilippo, Greater Carlisle Area Chamber of Commerce President Michelle Crowley, Harrisburg Regional Chamber of Commerce President David Black, West Shore Chamber of Commerce President George Book and Mechanicsburg Chamber of Commerce President Jeff Palm all offered congratulations and well wishes at the ceremony, in addition to thanking the Kennedys and Hoffmans for the work they had undertaken to ensure that Allenberry remains a vital part of the community.
“Allenberry was considered one of the icons of Cumberland County,” DiFilippo said. “It was a nice place before, but it’s just a spectacular place now.”
The ribbon-cutting also provided an occasion for the Cumberland Valley Visitors Bureau to recognize the Kennedys as their partner of the year in honor of their support for the region’s tourism assets and for providing increased economic benefits to Cumberland County.
Kennedy, along with his wife, Kate, and partners, Jim and Molly Hoffman, decided over a year ago to take on the obligation of taking Allenberry to the next level.
“We said then, and we truly believe today, that this property is a huge draw not only to our local community but to people from surrounding states. It’s just the kind of place where if you can’t relax here, you can’t relax,” Kennedy said.
There’s a pause in the work now, but Kennedy said there will always be work to do and the partners will always be looking for ways to improve.
“With the right kind of support from the community, the team members that we have here, a little grace of God and beautiful days like this, we’re going to do just fine,” Kennedy said.