City to celebrate third Whiskey Rebellion Festival

This sign in a storefront window advertises the Whiskey Rebellion Festival, which kicks off later this week in Washington. - Emily Harger / Observer-Reporter Order a Print

You don’t have to be a bit of a rebel or even like the taste of whiskey to enjoy this year’s Whiskey Rebellion Festival in downtown Washington, which runs Thursday through Sunday.

Chances are most people will find something in the festival to interest them. Events include a performance by the Washington Symphony Orchestra, historical street theater, quilting, weaving, jewelry, blacksmithing demonstrations, music, food, fireworks and a classic car show.

Saturday’s historical re-enactments will be capped off with the tar-and-feathering of a tax collector, an event that continues to be popular and, added Bradford House historical director Clay Kilgore, surprisingly unparalleled in municipal celebrations.

“I can’t find anyone in the country who is doing a tar-and-feathering, so I believe we’re the only ones around,” he said.

Three years after the city’s bicentennial celebration, the Whiskey Rebellion Festival continues to expand and attract visitors.

J.R. Shaw, president of the Washington County Tourism Promotion Agency, said the festival has been promoted not only in the greater Pittsburgh market but in surrounding areas of eastern Ohio and northern West Virginia.

“It has grown to the point where we have 20 committee members that have poured their heart and soul into everything, and it’s really nice to see,” he said.

The festival is designed around an event that took place in Washington more than 220 years ago and was the first challenge to the newly formed United States of America.

That’s when farmers in Western Pennsylvania took exception to the federal government’s tax on whiskey and destroyed the home of one tax collector, resulting in President George Washington marching into this area with a 13,000-man militia. By then the rebellion had collapsed.

“It’s the one singular, very unique event the city of Washington can lay claim to, so we decided to celebrate that heritage,” said city Councilman Joe Manning.

Manning, Shaw and Tripp Kline are known as the Benevolent Overlords of the festival, which had its beginnings in the city’s bicentennial dinner.

In addition to events in the public parking lot across from the Observer-Reporter, there will be demonstrations and re-enactments at the LeMoyne and Bradford houses. Also expanded this year will be children’s activities at the Frontier History Center in Washington Park. A city transit bus will provide a free shuttle to and from the park.

Also planned are:

Thursday: Main Street Farmers Market, Washington Health System Health Fair and cooking demonstration, 3:30 to 6:30 p.m.; Concert Under the Stars, 8 p.m.

Friday: Blues, Brews & BBQ featuring the Billy Price Band at 9 p.m.

Saturday: Community Parade at 10 a.m., and the Steeldrivers at 9 p.m., with a fireworks finale at 10:30 p.m.

Sunday: Classics on Main classic car show beginning at noon.


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