Small Town Spotlight - Zelienople

By:  Michele Sneddon

When you visit Butler County, one of the things you’ll notice is how special the small towns that make up the area really are.  Take a town like Zelienople: beyond that extremely unique, hard to pronounce name is a quaint, picturesque community with 175 years of history!

You may wonder how a small town in Western PA landed itself with such a bizarre name.  The town was named by its founder, Detmar Basse, after his daughter, Zelie, in 1802. He purchased 10,000 acres of post-Revolutionary War Depreciation Lands to create the town.  The center of Zelienople was on the main route between Erie and Pittsburgh at the time so the town flourished. 

Today the town is still flourishing.  While it has retained a great amount of the charm and quaintness from the time it was established, it has also grown into a town with many hidden gems including restaurants, coffee shops, events, shopping and more.  Interestingly enough, locals still affectionately shorten the name to “Zelie” and we imagine that Basse and his daughter would be very proud to see what their town has become.  Here are some of the highlights!


Zelienople is home to many annual events that draw crowds from all over. One of our favorites is Horse Trading Days.  This was its 52nd year! We took a moment to stop by and see just how fantastic of an event it was.  Delicious food, tons of vendors, storefront sidewalk sales and music filled the streets with fun for the whole family.  


These cuddly creatures were loving the crowd on the corner of Main Street. They live at Asgard Acres Alpaca Farm (you can see them at the Farm on our upcoming Butler County Farm Tour!).  


Remember how we mentioned the charm of the town is still as real as it was in 1802? There were even horse-drawn wagon rides down Main Street. That’s sure to take you back in time!


Another event that the town holds is coming up soon so mark your calendars!  The Zelienople-Harmony Country Fall Festival will be October 10-11 this year and nearby town, Harmony, will hold its Sleepy Hollow Festival that same weekend.  


Get ready for the autumn season with live music, crafts, a car cruise and show, homemade country foods, German dinners, ghost walks, costume contests….. should I go on or are you already convinced?  Below is a look at some of the fun from past Festivals in Zelie and Harmony.  


We told you there are a number of shops, restaurants and other attractions you definitely need to take advantage of when you visit Zelie.  Here’s a run-down of what you can find throughout the town:

Right on Main Street:

Short Drive Away:

Whether you’re a local or you’re in the area for an event or vacation, take the time to experience and appreciate what the county’s small towns have to offer. Spend a day in Zelie appreciating a “modern place with old fashioned grace.”  


About the author:

Hi I’m Michele! I work as a marketing assistant and Jeep Festival coordinator here at the Tourism Bureau.  I went to school at Slippery Rock University and I live in West Kittanning.  Before working here, I never realized how much there was to see and do in Butler County.  One of my favorite things is, in fact, the small towns so I enjoyed exploring Zelienople and telling you about the hidden gems I’ve discovered!