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A new festival celebrating the heritage of Cumberland County debuts in September.

The Cumberland Valley Heritage Festival will be held Aug. 31 through Sept. 9. The event kicks off with the McLain Celtic Festival, and includes tours, a whiskey tasting and the new Whiskey Rebellion Festival.

Lindsay Varner, project director of Greater Carlisle Heart and Soul said the project had collected hundreds of stories over the past year, and many of those stories dealt with creating a sense of place. Initially, the group thought to do a single-day event modeled on “heritage day” events Varner had seen while working in England. On those designated days, sites that usually charge admission may allow free access or tours may be offered at sites that are usually closed to the public.

“It allows people to celebrate where they are from and create a sense of place,” Varner said.

Last year, the group held a one-day event that included tours of Mt. Tabor AME Zion Church, Cumberland Valley Rail Trail, and the Mount Holly Springs Marsh Preserve. Varner said those tours were so popular that the group decided to connect the events to the McLain Celtic Festival and add a few new events to create a whole week to celebrate the area and its heritage.

Events surrounding the Whiskey Rebellion are new, Varner said. The goal is to start with smaller events now to be able to build up to a larger event in 2019, the 225th anniversary of the Whiskey Rebellion.

Most of the events are hosted by the Greater Carlisle Project or a member of the Cumberland County Historical Society.

The week kicks off with a fundraising reception for the McLain Celtic Festival at the Two-Mile House on Thursday, Aug. 31, and continues on Saturday, Sept. 1 with the annual McLain Celtic Festival. The festival celebrates the county’s Scots-Irish heritage with highland games, border collie demonstrations, Celtic music and food.

The first event related to the Whiskey Rebellion will be held at 1794 The Whiskey Rebellion with a dinner and whiskey tasting. The “Meals and Muskets” dinner will feature two reenactors who will talk about the weapons carried during the rebellion.

The Whiskey Rebellion theme picks up again on Sunday afternoon with the inaugural Whiskey Rebellion Festival from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. in downtown Carlisle. Varner said a small reenactment will be presented that will feature George Washington’s arrival into town as well as the gathering of the militias which met in Carlisle prior to marching west.

The festival will include a meet and greet time with the first president, guided tours and a mix of vendors and educational displays in the pocket park at the Historical Society.

The festival week closes out with a series of guided tours. The first is a history walk and picnic at the Mount Holly Springs Marsh Preserve at 10 a.m. Monday, Sept. 4, where participants will hear about the history of the Mount Holly Tram and resort as well as the history of the preserve and its importance to the town.

That will be followed by a bus trip to Mt. Tabor AME Zion Church on Wednesday, Sept. 6. It is essential to register for the trip as there is no parking available at the site, Varner said.

Saturday, Sept. 9 will be a busy final day to the festival, beginning with a guided bike ride on the rail trail at Allen Road at 9 a.m. The host of the ride will talk about the trail and the plans for its future.

At 10 a.m., a bus tour will take visitors to the home farm of the LEAF Project, just over the mountain in Perry County. There, the visitors will have the opportunity to taste heritage variety fruits and vegetables being grown at the farm.

The final tour of the festival starts at 1 p.m. when Steven Burg will lead a tour of Locust Grove Cemetery in Shippensburg where participants will learn about the history and preservation of the historic African-American Cemetery.

Varner said those interested in the bike ride and bus trips should sign up on the website or contact the Historical Society as space is limited for each of the events.

Updates to the schedule and additional details may also be found at the website,

Email Tammie at Follow her on Twitter @TammieGitt.


Carlisle Reporter

Carlisle Reporter for The Sentinel.