WASHINGTON, Pa.,None — More than two centuries after George Washington called out the militia to quell a fight over taxes imposed on whiskey-making in the United States, residents of Washington County marked the event with a parade, historical re-enactments, music and food in the inaugural Whiskey Rebellion Festival.
The festival on Saturday honored the 1794 rebellion in which local farmers protested the tax approved by Congress three years earlier to help pay for $80 million in Revolutionary War debt. Tripp Kline, a board member of the Bradford House Historical Association, calls the event one of the 10 most important in American history because it showed that the government was committed to unifying the fledging country.
"Had it failed, we may have been a divided nation," he said, noting that the rebellion ended without bloodshed when a 13,000-man federal army descended on Washington County and encountered no resistance.
Like many re-enactors enduring the July heat, Kline wasn't afraid to get a little dirty for the cause. He volunteered to play the part of a tax collector who was tarred and feathered at the end of the parade to the amusement of bystanders.
"Definitely hoping that the parade will became an annual thing," said Paul Dodworth of Washington.
A few paces from the feather-covered street, re-enactor Bob Tohey traded barbs with fellow members of the Ohio Company Rangers, traders and explorers who protected local farmers and acted as guides.
"We're not taking orders from anybody," he said.
A musket ball souvenir was all it took to persuade Tyler Liberatore, 8, of Canonsburg, to swear his allegiance to President George Washington's army alongside siblings Louie, 4, and Allie, 10 -- but then, they were facing the prospect of food and music rather than musket fire.
Bryan Cunning of Washington manned the bar at the Bloody Dirk, a makeshift log tavern behind the Bradford House, where despite the festival's name the drinks were made with rum rather than whiskey. Rum was the most common liquor imported by the British prior to the Revolutionary War, Cunning said.
Up the street, as the Celtic group Gallowglass kicked off the music, organizer Lee Stivers said the lineup began with heritage music and ended with bluegrass, the American-born music that arose from the traditional songs of the British Isles.
And befitting the peaceful end of the rebellion, the festival ended with a fireworks display rather than the roar of artillery.