New Straitsville, Ohio, is finally coming clean.
The town, about 60 miles southeast of Columbus, once had the dubious distinction of making some of the best moonshine in the nation. And for 40 years, the good people of the community held a Moonshine Festival to toast this grand tradition -- without being able to drink a drop of the stuff.
Moonshine, you see, is illegal. But that’s all changing this year.
The very legal Straitsville Special Distillery will open Memorial Day weekend to coincide with the festival. It will produce “high-quality corn whiskey, known as white lightning, legally for sample and sale,” a statement about the festival promises.
Yes, that means legally drinking the booze that for more than a century was made in secret. The distillery’s Facebook page on April 30 posted: “The very first legal moonshine run in the history of New Straitsville. Pure sweet nectar coming from the still. It’s about 130 proof.”
Bootlegging in what’s known as the Hocking Hills area started after an underground mine fire prompted by a labor dispute in 1884. The fire, which still burns today, was the ideal cover for the moonshiners: It hid the telltale smoke from their stills and helped them elude the law.
From there, the “Straitsville special” became the hooch of choice in Chicago’s speakeasies during Prohibition. The 19th amendment went into effect in 1920 and was effectively repealed in 1933.
The festival dedicated to the town’s lawbreaking spirit will be May 22-26. Among the highlights: a tractor pull, two parades, a talent show, carnival rides, and the appearance of Wayne Nix of Discovery Channel’s TV show “Moonshiners.”