By Kristin Emery
After all of last year’s summer events were canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic, anyone looking to get outside and enjoy a festival should mark July 10 on their calendar.
The Whiskey Rebellion Festival is back.
A scaled-down, one day version of the festival is slated from 12 to 10 p.m., July 10.
“The festival will be held completely in downtown Washington this year,” says Tracie Liberatore, executive director of the Bradford House Historical Association (BHHA) and festival co-chair.
Organizers were forced to cancel the festival last year and debated whether to hold it this summer as the pandemic continues and vaccines are being administered.
Ultimately, the festival got the green light with some adjustments.
“There will be activity at the Main Street Pavilion, the Bradford House, the Whiskey Rebellion Education and Visitor Center, the LeMoyne gardens and Strawberry Alley,” says Liberatore. “This year’s schedule includes music, children’s activities, food trucks, reenactors and history groups.”
Condensing the festival into one day doesn’t mean any of the fun or historical tributes will be lost. At its center, the festival that began a decade ago tells the story of the whiskey insurrection that climaxed in Western Pennsylvania in 1794.
Street theater shows starring historical re-enactors will move to the garden behind the LeMoyne House. Walking tours of the Bradford House are back along with the new Whiskey Rebellion museum on South Main Street plus live music, delicious food and – of course – local whiskey.
“When deciding to have a 2021 Whiskey Rebellion Festival, the Festival committee and the Bradford House Historical Association Board wanted to keep everyone’s safety at the center of our discussions,” says Joe Piszczor, festival co-chair and president of the BHHA. “But we did understand that we have a responsibility to do what we can to have the event because of how important it is to our region.”
Piszczor says plans are still evolving according to guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Gov. Tom Wolf’s decision to lift COVID-19 capacity restrictions at the end of May.
“Although the festival impacts many in our region, I believe that the most important thing to focus on this year is acting as a force to bring our community back together because of the thing we love most: each other,” Piszczor says. “It has given those of us that work hard every year to put the festival on an opportunity to define why we do this and what you, the attendees, want it to be.”
The festival is a huge attraction for locals and also for tourism in the city of Washington and the county.
“The community is excited that the Whiskey Rebellion Festival is returning in 2021,” says Liberatore. “Our Facebook page has been bursting with positive feedback. We are responding to CDC guidelines as they change. There has been some recent news and as our committee meets, I expect the July event rules to adjust. Stay tuned to see our newly renovated whiskeyrebellionfestival.com site and follow us on Facebook to keep up to date with our lineup and announcements.”
The event normally marks the busiest day of the year for the Bradford House Museum with nearly a thousand visitors.
“We anticipate that local people will attend as well as those that have to travel to get to us,” Piszczor said. “We’ve been told that people schedule their summer around our festival. And, remember, our event is unlike any other as we are promoting local history.”
The Whiskey Rebellion Festival may be the marquee event, but it is just one of several festivals roaring back to life in Washington County this summer. The outdoor fun kicks off with the First Friday series in June.
First Friday is a celebration of music, arts, culture, shopping, great food and more in the heart of downtown Washington. First Fridays began four years ago as a way to boost the businesses in downtown Washington and bring the local community together.
First Fridays are set to happen from 5 to 9 p.m. June 4, August 6 and September 3 in the Community Pavilion on South Main Street and will feature local artisans, food trucks, wine and spirits, regional music and kids activities. The events have something for the entire family and are free thanks to sponsorship from The Meadow Racetrack & Casino plus other local sponsors.
Three live bands are scheduled with Buckwild performing in June, Jukebox in August and Radio Tokyo in September.
Greater Pittsburgh Food Truck Festival
July keeps hopping with the Greater Pittsburgh Food Truck Festival July 16-18. This marks the event’s fifth anniversary and the Observer-Reporter is proud to host its return in 2021.
Dozens of the region’s best food trucks will be in attendance at The Meadows Racetrack & Casino along with live music, craft beer and wine, regional artisans and vendors. Admission is free starting from 5 to 9 p.m. Friday, 12 to 9 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday. For more information, visit Pghfoodtruckfest.com.
Corks And Kegs
Finally, the summer fun winds down with Corks and Kegs at The Meadows Racetrack & Casino Aug. 21 and 22. When the O-R launched its event division six years ago, Corks and Kegs was its first large, regional event aimed at focusing on the local craft beer and wine scene.
Since then, it has grown to include more than 50 breweries, 15 wineries, 20 food trucks and 20 unique vendors.
“The Observer-Reporter event division has enabled us to create hyper local events and focus on the attributes of our community,” says Carole DeAngelo, O-R advertising director. “We have so many great things to offer here, it was easy. We partner with the right businesses who share the same goal of creating positive energy. We are excited to be able to host events again in 2021 and do it in a manner of safety and fun.”
For more information, visit www.corksandkegsfestival.com or the festival’s Facebook page.