7.) Moonshine Festival – New Straitsville – May 25, 2012

The village of New Straitsville was founded in 1870 by the New Straitsville Mining Company in order to provide housing for its workers.

In just a short time, an entire town was constructed that included stores, a railroad station, a telegraph office, a jail, a school, churches, and houses for families placed anywhere there was land to fit them.

The village grew so quickly that there were 4,000 residents by 1880.

But although there was steady work, it wasn’t a glamorous life by any means for the coal miner. Work was demanding, conditions were tough and the only nearby goods available were sold in company stores where prices were high.

In 1884, a year after several coal and iron companies merged together into the Columbus and Hocking Coal and Iron Company, things only got tougher. Rather than reducing workers wages 10 cents (which was normal for the spring and summer months), management decided to reduce wages by 20 cents.

Workers didn’t take kindly to this managerial decision and began a strike that would eventually last for 9 months. Three thousand workers participated in this strike, but that didn’t stop the company, who only hired “scabs” and Pinkerington guards as security.

Then, in October 1884, some unknown men retaliated by doing something far, far worse…

…like setting the coal mines on fire.

These fires (which are actually still burning today after consuming over 200 square miles of coal, creating sink holes and contaminating rivers) eventually ceased coal mining operations and led to the company’s departure.

_________________________

The purpose for this bit of history is because, in the 1930′s, those burnt, abandoned mines became valuable secret places for poor ex-coal miners to make quite a bit of income during the Great Depression…

.

…as moonshiners.

And, for some years, New Straitsville’s whiskey was known around the world…

…and it eventually merited a festival.

Celebrating its 42nd year…

…the Moonshine Festival celebrated New Straitsville’s more interesting days…

…allowing festival goers to come here…

…and see a still in action…

…as the moonshine slowly poured before their eyes.

Thanks to a five-day license…
.

…the village was able to use this corn mash…

…and create some rather potent alcohol…

…but all for educational purposes only…

…meaning no sampling or purchases.

The festival even went further to help pour some moonshine spirit (pun obviously intended)…

…by opening the doors of the New Straitsville History Group Museum…

…and sharing its history of those moonshining days…

It also offered items at the souvenirs booth…

…where festival goers could go moonshine-memorabilia crazy!

In fact, there were quite a few shopping opportunities at the festival…

…with flags and license plates…

.
.
.
…and Kiss stuff…
.
.
lots of Kiss stuff.
.

Activity-wise, there were things for the entire family…

…including rides…

…games of chance…
;

…arcade games…

…face painting…

…and a dunking booth.

But the festival even offered some rather interesting bits of entertainment…
.

…by means of wrestling matches…

…and a competition…

…known as the garden tractor pull.

Garden tractors lined the street as they waited their turn…

…and were they ever loud!

With the limited amount of festival space, the tractors had to compete down the main road…

…preventing easy access to some food vendors.

Fortunately, it didn’t stop me from checking out all the food possibilities…
.

…including some local booths that offered walleye and cookies…

…and this booth…

…that sold Moonburgers (with cheese) along with moonshine dogs and pie.

I had come to the festival with the intention of getting the moonburger. And, when I asked locals where to get the burger and how it was made, they pointed the way but claimed they didn’t know the ingredients.

This made me wonder.

How did they not know?
.

When I arrived at the booth and asked the booth owner before ordering, she told me it was simply a burger cooked in a mushroom/onion sauce.

Nothing too difficult, right?
.

So why did it seem like a secret to everyone else? And why didn’t they want to tell me?

And – I wonder still…

…why couldn’t I taste the mushroom/onion sauce?

Perhaps I simply put on too much relish.

 

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One Response to 7.) Moonshine Festival – New Straitsville – May 25, 2012

  1. arkayokay says:

    This is awesome! Though totally misleading that you can’t drink any of the moonshine. I was expecting this post to turn into slurring nonsense halfway through…

    Anyway, I wrote a story for my magazine feature writing class at OU about New Straitsville and the coal fire. All human suffering aside, I remember the thing that stuck with my in my research was a story about a donkey that got lowered into the coal mine and lived out its sad life without ever seeing the light of day again. :(

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