Whiskey Rebellion Festival to host more tours, music and crowds

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Downtown Washington is soon to become the backdrop for a local history lesson – complete with beer, bluegrass and a demonstration in tarring and feathering – at this weekend’s Whiskey Rebellion Festival.


“We are trying to teach people the history of our region with the festival,” said Tripp Kline, the festival co-chairman, referring to the event’s Main Street re-enactment of events from the Whiskey Rebellion more than 200 years ago.


The Washington County commissioners will kick off festivities with a presentation Thursday. The event will close with fireworks Saturday night. The historical celebration includes an art show at the LeMoyne House, a lineup of blues and bluegrass music and a series of Colonial re-enactments depicting the Washington County farmers’ rebellion over a tax increase on grain, an ingredient in whiskey.


Admission, entertainment and tours are free.


Joe Manning, Washington councilman, estimates 10,000 to 15,000 locals and out-of-towners will filter through the festival.


“It has continued to grow,” Manning said.


J.R. Shaw, a festival organizer, added that the celebration is establishing a following outside the county.


“The festival will bring folks all around the Pittsburgh region,” Shaw said.


Now in its fifth year, the festival was established in 2010 to mark the bicentennial of the revolt.


This year showcases a fresh lineup of activities, including architectural and law tours of the Washington County Courthouse, as well as a presidential walking tour highlighting 15 presidents who’ve visited the region.


Music also will be a featured element of the event. In addition to headliners Barbara Blue and the Felice Brothers on the main stage, the festival will offer live music at the LeMoyne House, George Washington hotel and the Frontier Fort site at Washington Park.


The 2014 Whiskey Rebellion Dinner includes an auction and whiskey tasting on July 17, a change from the usual kickoff night of the festival. The dinner will be held at the Hilton Garden Inn at Southpointe this year, instead of the George Washington hotel, due to a large number of reservations, Kline said.


In addition to the new events, festival favorites remain. Kline said those attending always are sure to catch the re-enactment of the tax collector’s tarring and feathering, held downtown at 5 p.m. Saturday.


“It was really just an opportunity that we saw that was unique.” Kline said of the festival’s origin. “Something that no other community in the United States could claim, and that was the Whiskey Rebellion.”


Events include:


Thursday – The festival will kick off with a presentation from Washington County commissioners at 2:45 p.m. Main Street Farmers Market, Washington System Health Fair and cooking demonstration will be held from 3:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. The Washington Symphony Orchestra strikes up at 8 p.m.


Friday – Blues, Brews & BBQ features vendors and concessions, as well as drinks at Blue Eagle Tavern. Live blues acts include Ron Yarosz and the Vehicle at 6:30 p.m., Billy the Kid and the Regulators at 7:45 p.m. and headliner Barbara Blue at 9 p.m.


Saturday – Main Street Community Parade begins at 10 a.m., and tours will be offered throughout the day. Live performances include the Shelf Life String Band at 6:30 p.m., the Weedrags at 7:35 p.m. and the Felice Brothers at 9 p.m., followed by a fireworks finale.


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