57 Things To Do At The Whiskey Rebellion Festival

Read this in 17 minutes

A crowd of people at an event
A crowd of people at an event
Photo credit: Geoff Gill from Pixabay

Everything you need to know about the Whiskey Rebellion Festival, which is condensed to just one day – Saturday, July 10, 2021. It all happens in downtown Washington, PA from noon to 10:00 PM.

Listen to music all day long, see demonstrations and displays, and eat and drink to your heart’s content. Watch historic re-enactments, listen to history groups, see frontier art, take a walking tour of downtown Washington and learn the story of the Whiskey Rebellion.

Demonstrations & Displays

Take in three local museums set up to be entertaining and educational, and look into a number of local and regional orgnizations that are passionate about Washington and southwestern Pennsylvania's unique heritage.

See period exhibitions at the Bradford House Museum, which is furnished like someone of Whiskey Rebellion leader David Bradford’s stature might have lived in the late 18th century. A lot of guests are expected – tours will be of the first floor only.
On the day of the festival, the Bradford House will be open from noon until 5:00 PM.
Explore exhibits that can be touched, historic artifacts, an historical timeline and an 18th century still like was used to distill grain into whiskey at the Whiskey Rebellion Education and Visitor Center. The center will limit how many people can be inside at a time.
Noon to 5:00 PM.
Visit the Francis J. LeMoyne House while in downtown Washington. It hadn’t been built at the time of the Rebellion, but it played a role in American history in the runup to the Civil War by serving as a station on the Underground Railroad.
Stop by informative displays put together by local historical organizations:
  • Duncan and Miller Glass Museum preserves and displays the rich history of glass making in Washington
  • Genealogical Society of Southwestern Pennsylvania provides genealogy and historical information related to Washington County
  • Meadowcroft Rockshelter and Historic Village is an archaeological site in the county that features a museum and a reconstruction of a 16th century Monongahela Culture Native America village
  • Pennsylvania Trolley Museum is where people can can touch streetcars and go for a ride around a 2-mile trolley track
  • Washington County History and Landmarks Foundation, which helps preserve historic structures in the county
Visit displays by regional organizations of interest to the Washington area:
  • Bushy Run Battlefield Heritage Society teaches people about the Battle of Bushy Run in what is now Westmoreland County. It provided a major victory for the British that gave them – and later, the U.S. – control of the Ohio River Valley
  • Friendship Hill National Historic Site in Fayette County was the home of Albert Gallatin, a statesman and politician who opposed the tax on whiskey that led to the Rebellion
  • Greene County Historical Society showcases local exhibits starting with Native Americans and continuing to the present
  • National Road Heritage Corridor out of Uniontown, Fayette County, preserves the story of the 90 miles of the National Road that passes through southwestern PA

Enjoy historical re-enactments and displays of camp life, cooking, weaponry, Native Americans and how clothes used to be made all day long at LeMoyne House Garden.

See an accurate re-creation of the camp life of the U.S. Army during the 1790s – the years of the Rebellion – by Wayne’s Legion. Officially the Fourth Sub-Legion of the United States, Wayne’s Legion recreates the twelve soldiers sent to defend the home of General John Neville during the Whiskey Rebellion.
Watch reenactments of 18th century camp cooking. What did the U.S. Army eat when it was on the road? Where did their food come from? How was it prepared? Demonstrations will be conducted.
View 18th century weapons on display, similar to ones that might have been used during the Whiskey Rebellion.
Visit the 8th PA Regiment Encampment. The original Mackay's Battalion was part of the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War. These re-enactors portray soldiers, musicians and distaff of the unit as it appeared in the Spring of 1779.
Observe James Blake’s American Indian Display capturing the spirit of the 18th century with quill work, where animal feathers are dyed, flattened and attached to animal skin or bark, and finger weaving, where sashes, bags and other items are woven without using a loom.
See how clothes were made on the frontier by watching spinning and weaving demonstrations. Spinning turns wool or cotton into thread or yarn. Weaving turns that yarn into a continuous piece of fabric using a loom. The fabric can be cut and sewn into clothes.

Music

Listen to six groups perform live heritage music on Festival Stage – acoustic, Appalachian, bluegrass, Irish and other traditonal sounds.

The Snappin' Bug Stringband is a trio that plays guitar, fiddle and banjo with a lot of energy.
On stage: 12:30 PM
Robin and Bob are an acoustic duo from southwestern PA. Bob brings 30 years of playing guitar and Robin a lifetime of singing to deliver an eclectic mix of music that includes folk and old time country.
On stage: 1:45 PM
The well known local bluegrass band Glass Run Road brings their fun-loving, traditional sound to the Whiskey Rebellion Festival.
On stage: 3:00 PM
Devilish Merry blends Appalachian and Irish melodies with powerful, ballad-based songs on American history such as the festival celebrates.
On stage: 4:15 PM.
Robin and Bob return to the stage.
On stage: 6:00 PM
The Sweaty Already String Band is a Pittsburgh bluegrass band that plays original songs and unexpected covers steeped in Appalachia.
On stage: 7:00 PM
The Jakob’s Ferry Stragglers bring their traditional music with stirring harmonies, powerful instrumentation and a progressive originality.
On stage: 8:30 PM

Four of those heritage music bands also play LeMoyne House Garden – one every hour starting at quarter past – giving people another opportunity to catch them performing.

Devilish Merry
1:15 PM at LeMoyne House Garden
Sweaty Already String Band
2:15 PM at LeMoyne House Garden
Snappin’ Bug String Band
3:15 PM at LeMoyne House Garden
Glass Run Road
4:15 PM at LeMoyne House Garden

Street Theater

Peek into the way things were in the area in the 1790s by watching street theater through the day.

Tax Fiction
Performance by the Whiskey Rebellion Theatre Troop is scheduled for noon on the Main Stage.
Inglorious Rebels
Performance by the Whiskey Rebellion Theatre Troop is scheduled for 1:00 PM at the LeMoyne House Garden.
Life In The Federal Army
Performance by Wayne’s Legion is scheduled for 2:00 PM at the LeMoyne House Garden.
Once Upon A Time In Philadelphia
Performance by the Whiskey Rebellion Theatre Troop is scheduled for 3:00 PM at the LeMoyne House Garden.
Holcroft Unchained
Performance by the Whiskey Rebellion Theatre Troop is scheduled for 4:00 PM at the LeMoyne House Garden.
High Proof – A Toast To The Whiskey Rebels
Performance by the Whiskey Rebellion Theatre Troop is scheduled at 5:00 PM at Liberty Pole Spirits.

Walking Tours

A little walking is good for people – especially when it’s an historical walk through downtown Washington during the Whiskey Rebellion Festival.

Take the Presidential Walking Tour, which could be called 15 U.S. Presidents who stopped by Washington, PA. No spoiler alerts here – take the tour to learn all about it.
The tour begins at the Whiskey Rebellion statue on Main Street.
Walk The Road That Built The Nation. The National Road passes through Washington. For years it was heavily traveled by people looking to settle what is now referred to as the Midwest. Known more often as U.S. Route 40 today, the National Road Walking Tour will be time well spent.
The tour begins at the Whiskey Rebellion statue on Main Street.
Listen to folks from the Washington County History and Landmarks Foundation narrate a tour of Washington Architecture, which follows Main Street. The tour looks at the architecture of those historic buildings and different ways they’ve been used through the years.
The tour begins at the Whiskey Rebellion statue on Main Street.
Marvel at the Washington County Courthouse. The open central rotunda is crowned with brilliant stained glass windows. Interior doorways, the grand staircase and base of the dome are lavishly finished. People have surely seen the 18-foot-tall statue of George Washington that caps its classical terra cotta dome.
30-minute tours begin at the main entrance to the courthouse at noon, with the last one stepping off at 1:30 PM.

Food & Drink

Enjoy festival food and drink at vendors who offer hot dogs and corn dogs and chicken on a stick, pulled pork and sausage sandwiches and hoagies, gyros, drinks and floats, funnel cakes, cinnamon buns and soft pretzels, fries and fried potatoes, snow cones and Italian ice, kettle corn and popcorn and cotton candy.

Chow down on ¼-pound gourmet beef hot dogs with a bunch of toppings served by Hott Dawgz, based here in Washington. Corn dogs are fries are also served.
Cool off with Wu’s Shaved Ice. They offer 32 snow cone flavors plus 2 sugar-free flavors.
Feed your sweet tooth at Hot Bunz Food Truck, a Washington County-based food truck. Cinnamon Bunz can be drizzled with vanilla, cream cheese or maple topping. Their soft Bavarian pretzel is served with warm cheddar cheese dip or spicy brown mustard. Pepperoni Bunz are also available.
Slake your thirst with floats or carbonated beverages from B&D Concessions.
Frost yourself with Philadelphia Water Ice – a type of Italian ice – from Frost Fairy. They also sell Belgian S’mores Waffles.
Eat BBQ beef or pork sandwiches from Gil’s Pit Beef. They offer a variety of toppings and sauces, sides and pork rinds.
Stop by Hai Le’s Oriental Concessions, a fixture at shows in southwestern PA since before food trucks were a thing. Popular items include chicken on a stick, fried rice, mac and cheese egg rolls, and funnel cakes.
Enjoy Maw’s Country Fixins. Like the name suggests, they sell sausage, kielbasa, sauerkraut, hoagies and fried potatoes.
Buy Mediterranean food from Pgh Halal. Items include gyros, chicken over rice, falafel pita, fries, hummus and baklava.
Eat pulled pork sandwiches, frozen chocolate-dipped bananas or cotton candy at Royce Concessions.
Taste the pulled pork sandwiches & sides at the Smoke Wagon booth.
Watch Wild River KK pops kettle korn before your very eyes.
Grab a bagged of chips, popcorn or cotton candy from Crystal’s Peddler, located in the children’s area.

Children's Activities

Kids can enjoy games, participate in a frontier classroom or do chores in the Lil’ Rebels Heritage Area in the Bradford House Gardens behind the Bradford House from 12:00 to 5:00 PM.

Roll a hoop along the ground using a stick – an activity that children have enjoyed for a long time. It’s also been called “hoop and stick”.
Write with a quill pen, just like they did back in the time of the Rebellion.
Toss a ball into a cup. A string attaches the ball to the cup, which is held in one hand. It’s harder than it looks.
Read from McGuffey Readers, which were used as textbooks in American schools for a long time. See how most children learned to read in the 1800s and early 1900s.
Enjoy the ancient sport of Scotch-Hoppers, Scotch Hobbies or hopscotch as it’s known today.
Practice lessons on slates. Students practiced their writing and did math problems on slates. They’d show the results of their lessons to the teacher.
Walk on stilts. It uses a different group of muscles, making it feel like walking for the first time. A little practice and you'll be ready for Walk On Stilts Day on July 27.
Toss rings to land on a pin or spike. The game is called quoits, and has been played in the U.S. for more than 140 years.
Learn what chores kids had to do on the frontier – gathering eggs, fetching water and washing clothes in a tub with a washboard.

Bonuses

Park 'N Ride around the festival at no charge. Take in the symphony. Shop for vintage Duncan glassware made locally for table use across America.

Park for free at the parking garage.
Ride the Freedom Transit Circulator bus for free all day long. The Circulator stays in the Washington area, making the usual Saturday stops to make getting around the Whiskey Rebellion Festival easier on Free Fare Day, July 10, 2021.
Listen to the return of the full Washington Symphony Orchestra on the eve of the Whiskey Rebellion Festival. The WSO offers a free concert that’s open to the public on July 9 at 8:00 PM under the pavilion at the Whiskey Rebellion Festival. Duo Nederlander will play live classical and folk selections at 7:15 PM, ahead of the main performance.
On Sunday, take a side trip to the National Duncan Glass Society Annual Show & Sale at the Washington County Fairgrounds. $7 provides admission for both days. By attending on Sunday, people can spend all day Saturday at the Whiskey Rebellion Festival.

About The Festival

Washington has a unique heritage. Following the Revolutionary War, the region was the frontier of a young, growing nation. The Whiskey Rebellion was centered in Washington County. It was the first test of the United States after the weakness of the government under the Articles of Confederation led to a stronger federal government under the U.S. Constitution starting in 1789.

Typically about 10,000 people turn out for the Whiskey Rebellion Festival. The Bradford House Historical Society, which hosts the festival in conjunction with a lot of other organizations and many volunteers has done counts.

The largest count I’ve ever heard is 30,000 people.

Tracie Liberatore, Executive Director of Bradford House Historical Society

How many people will turn out in 2021 is anyone’s guess – it’s a shorter festival and some people are still averse to going out in crowds. Yet people missed it when it was skipped during the pandemic in 2020, many folks are excited to finally get out and do fun things and the Whiskey Rebellion Festival is packed with a large variety of things to do.