There could be an Ohio sequel to the HBO series Boardwalk Empire. It seems that for a time Al Capone, a Prohibition era gangster who feuded and fought his way to the top and key character in the show, dealt in hooch that came from New Straitsville, a town 40 miles southeast of Columbus and once the country's busiest producer of bootleg booze. You can become part of the story Memorial Day weekend, May 22-26, when the citizenry celebrates its infamous past.
The Moonshine Festival has been happening for 40 years, but 2014 is the first time there will be legal, local corn whiskey available from the Straitsville Special Distillery. They have a five-day permit to brew and sell white lightening and visitors can actually see the antique equipment, once hidden in the hills, at work.
The story of how this place got into the booze business began with a coal mine fire intentionally started in 1884 as part of a labor dispute. Smoke from the fire, which still smolders underground, made it tough for revenuers to detect bootleggers by the customary method of tracking the telltale smoke rising from stills concealed in the woods.
Despite the adult-beverage theme, this is an old-fashioned family-oriented festival with parades down Main Street, a flea market, carnival rides and foods, a tractor pull (I've yet to figure out why this is considered entertainment) and live music. For those who care about such things Wayne Nix of the popular Discovery Channel show, Moonshiners will appear May 25. Although it's a three-hour drive from Cleveland, New Straitsville is worth the trek. Plus it's near Hocking Hills, a beautiful part of the state with lots of things to do, so you could easily book a cabin and make a weekend of it.