Washington County Commissioner Larry Maggi was in Moon Township meeting with a delegation of elected officials from around Western Pennsylvania Thursday morning when one of them started talking about this weekend’s Whiskey Rebellion Festival.
The little festival in Washington that began in 2011 is quickly growing, with new events each year, and becoming a regional attraction with more people outside of the county taking notice.
“It showcases what’s going on here,” Maggi said. “When you touch history, it touches a note with everybody.”
Maggi and his fellow commissioners hope that trend continues after they announced Thursday afternoon a $15,000 grant to the Whiskey Rebellion Festival’s 26-person committee, which plans to use the money to market and advertise the annual July event in neighboring states. Tripp Kline, the festival’s co-chairman, said the funding will help them to continue to build the event and bring more people to the three-day festival. This year’s event began Thursday.
“The most difficult task for a festival is funding,” Kline said. “People believe in the process, volunteering and helping in any way … but for the commissioners to lend this type of funding lends legitimacy for what we’re trying to do.”
Kline said the festival will have new activities this year, including a tour of the Washington County Courthouse and a presidential “walking tour” to showcase past presidents.
He noted that the festival is growing in a similar fashion as the Whiskey Rebellion did in the early 1790s when Western Pennsylvania farmers, including some in Washington County, armed themselves to protest a new federal tax on grain that was used to make whiskey. Federal troops sent to the area quashed the unrest, but the whiskey tax was later repealed.
“It’s really a regional event. That’s why we’re trying to reach out (to other areas),” Kline said, adding their advertising is now reaching into Ohio, Maryland and West Virginia. “It was a regional rebellion, and the festival is growing in the same way.”
County officials see it as a way to bring people to the area and lift the local economy through tourism.
“This is a great time for Washington County,” Maggi said. “We want to make sure tourism is an integral part of the county.”