Skip to Main Content Jump to Main Content
Rachel Olszewski Conrad of Pennsylvania Harness Horsemen’s Association – Why NEPA? image
January 16, 2024
Rachel Olszewski Conrad of Pennsylvania Harness Horsemen’s Association – Why NEPA?
Jonathan Davies

“Everybody seems to enjoy life here a little more.”

Rachel Olszewski Conrad hails from the suburban north side of Chicago. Da’ Cubbies. Da’ Bears. Da’ Blackhawks. You know the deal. As far as formative years go, she’s a bit of an anomaly. She’s a city kid through and through – job at 16, hopping on trains, hangin’ out, doin’ all kinds of Chicago things. Also, her family made their living in racehorses and she’s been riding them since she could stand on two feet. Essentially, Rachel grew up equally as comfortable navigating the “L” as she was dodging road apples (apologies to those curious enough…).

Before long, though, she started making her way east. First, she grabbed a degree in Communications/Political Science from the U of Dayton. From there, the journey continued to PA. She ended up at Penn State Wilkes-Barre seeking a Master’s in Org. Development & Change. And she got it along with a job at the University and the attention of a cute (yet way too serious) guy from her required and totally-never-silly emergency disaster training course.

Country boy meets big city girl. Naturally, they get hitched and buy a 30-acre farm in the Back Mountain. Enter two darling daughters and a quick change of careers – one that seemed almost a little too full circle. She’s now running Marketing & Communications for the PA Harness Horseman’s Association and loving every minute of it.

We caught up with Rachel and her adorable girls at the old family farmstead in Dallas. A sharp November wind swept across the tall grass and whispered through the old fieldstone wall hints of a coming winter and asking questions like Why NEPA? – weird how nature does that!


How long have you lived in NEPA?

Since the fall of 2011. So, it’s been a little over 12 years, I guess.

What do you love about your town?

I have been in the Back Mountain the entire time I’ve been here. And I love that it is such a tight-knit community. I love that people don’t really have a problem smiling at each other or talking to each other. It’s not like that in Chicago. You know? If you say hello to somebody on the train, they usually just get up and go somewhere else to get away from you (laughs). It’s been nice to have the kind of community here that welcomes strangers. It’s been nice just to have that community engagement. To have all these things you can get involved in – both in the Back Mountain and in NEPA in general. I’m involved with several local organizations, and I love it. I think you’d be really hard-pressed to find another place like NEPA where you can get as involved in so many things and help as many organizations as you can. It just feels like a place where people want to do good things, if that makes any sense (laughs). You can see that people really want to do good here for each other and for the betterment of the area. I think that’s rare. You just don’t find that everywhere.

What’s your favorite NEPA restaurant?

Yeah, that’s tricky… (pensive pause). Ok. For a family restaurant, we’re big fans of The Overbrook because the girls love the food and the atmosphere. It’s a very relaxing place for us. My husband and I enjoy Prime here in the Back Mountain. That’s like our date night place. But if you’re making me pick one restaurant, I guess I’d have to say Sabatini’s. We’re huge Sab’s fans. The girls love the pizza. There’s room for them to run around and they love the fish tanks. And when we don’t have them, then we go over to the Bottleshop, which is equally as fun for the grown-ups (laughs). I just think they’ve created a brilliant concept there with both locations.

What’s your favorite thing to do in NEPA?

Really, it’s all about being able to get out with the girls and do things with them. My husband and I attend all kinds of charity events through the various organizations that I’m involved with and they’re a lot of fun, but we really like the ones where we can get the kids involved. The WVCA Walk-a-Thon is a great example. We think it’s great for them to see all the different people that live in NEPA. And they’re able to see how they can help people in their community, which I love. We’re always looking for things like that.

We’re also big outdoors people. Obviously, we live on a farm, but we just love getting outside. Maybe not in the winter time – skiing is a little tough with two-year-olds (laughs). We really enjoy going on walks and to all of the parks. NEPA really has a lot to offer in terms of outdoor activities. Here’s a little side note: we’re actually in the process of getting my parents to retire here. My brother is out here on the east coast as well. He’s in Virginia. But when we were looking at cost of living, NEPA just made the most sense to them. Plus, they were just so excited about all of the outdoor activities and parks and things to do like seasonal pop-ups bars. We’re all kind of foodies. So, that’s something we really enjoy.

What’s next for you?

It’s always been my dream to own my own marketing firm. So, I am in the early stages of the process of getting my own specialty marketing agency up and running. Firm, agency? I don’t know what to call it yet. It’s just a one-woman show at this point (laughs). I enjoy working with small to medium-sized businesses. They’re the ones who need the most help, and they’re the ones that I enjoy helping. It all goes back to this idea I have about helping out those mom-n-pop shops, helping out your neighbors – about helping send their kids to tuba practice.

Where do you see NEPA heading in the future?

Since I’ve been here, I have seen the manufacturing boom kind of take-off. And that has shown that there’s truly a lot of opportunity here in NEPA if people are willing to take it. We have fantastic opportunities and resources here to do that. If somebody wanted to relocate their business and their family to NEPA, all of those opportunities exist here. And they just keep growing exponentially. I really see that continuing. It’s an amazing trend to see. And maybe this is cliché, but you can really have the American dream in Northeastern Pennsylvania. That’s not happening everywhere. NEPA’s special in that way.


Because our children thrive in NEPA. They love to visit Chicago from time to time. They love to visit family in Virginia, but where they’re truly happy, and where I truly see their growth is here. And I don’t mean just here on the farm, but here in our amazing education system. They’re both enrolled in local preschool. And we just love seeing how special it is here for them. I wouldn’t have it any other way. I wouldn’t ask for anything more than that. They deserve to have everything and experience everything in life, and here we’re able to give that to them.