What better way to learn about the historical significance of Whiskey Rebellion than to watch it come alive before your eyes?
Festivalgoers were placed in the thick of the rebellion Saturday as Federal forces and Colonial farmers battled during a re-enactment at the Frontier History Center fort in Washington Park.
Real guns loaded with gun powder litter the air with thick smoke and back-to-back cannon explosions made the audience jump. When the re-enactment was over, the rebel forces were defeated and the farmers had a prisoner to make an example of.
Bryan Cunning, who helped develop the re-enactments for the festival, said the best memories are associated with sights and smells. Therefore, re-enactments are a great way to learn.
“They really drive the part home better,” he said about re-enactments. “It’s easier than spilling out dates.”
While many cheered and clapped as the re-enactment forged forward, few were aware of the dedication that went into making the festival’s historical re-enactments a success.
More than 18 actors spent months developing the scenes that depicted life on the Pennsylvania frontier during the late 1700s. Clay Kilgore, director of Washington County Historical Society, said he wanted more of a story line this year.
“We just didn’t want to have yelling and gunfire,” Kilgore, who also participated in the re-enactments, said.
Kilgore said while re-enactments have occurred at Frontier History Center in the past, Saturday’s event was the first time the fort was used during battle.
“We looked at the layout of the land and saw what we could do,” he said.
In addition to the re-enactment, audience members could taste several popular drinks from the era at a tavern set up nearby, which included juices, whiskey and brandy, and visit a variety of stations set up around the property that depicted era music and games.
Back in town, at the heart of the festival, people visited the different booths and enjoyed music and several other historical re-enactments. A yearly crowd favorite, the tar and feathering of Washington’s tax collector, drew quite a large crowd. Children and adults squealed with delight as chocolate syrup and feathers coated the actor portraying the tax collector.
Re-enactor Kate Cunning said the re-enactment aspect of the festival is “great fun.”
“It’s just a great day,” she said.
The opinion seemed to resonate throughout the crowd. Kim Knox, who was visiting the area from Arizona, said she enjoyed the day.
“I learned a lot from walking around,” she said.
Amber Litster, of Peters Township, said the canon blasts initially startled here, but later reminded her of fireworks. She said the music and fireworks drew them to the festival Saturday.
In the end, Kilgore said this year’s festival was a success.
“I’m pleased with the way it turned out,” he said. “Hopefully, it will be even better next year.”