The High-Octane Life in the Blue Ridge Mountains

Waynesboro, Virginia, is renowned for an abundance of high-octane thrills, with mountain biking and rock climbing often highlighted. A spirited heritage runs deep in these Blue Ridge and Allegheny Mountains, and an exploration into the region’s rich lore and mystique is itself an adventure!

These Spirited Mountains

Photo credit: Blue Ridge Institute & Museum of Ferrum College

“Mash,” “granny fee,” “singlings,” “mountain dew,” and “a bootleg turn”… the language, mystique, and modern media portrayals of Blue Ridge moonshining have created quite a body of lore.

For the real scoop on the history and culture of untaxed liquor in the mountains of Virginia, there’s no better resource than the Blue Ridge Institute & Museum’s online exhibition, “Moonshine – Blue Ridge Style.

Settlers to the Allegheny and Blue Ridge Mountains in the 1700s brought their traditions with them, including distilling grains into whiskey and fruit into brandy and using the leftover “slop” from the process for livestock feed. The United States government first began taxing alcohol to help pay for the Revolutionary War. Those distillers who chose not to get a license nor pay tax on their whiskey became known as “bootleggers” and “moonshiners.

Photo credit: Blue Ridge Institute & Museum of Ferrum College

When Virginia banned alcohol in 1914, the demand for moonshine only increased, and previously licensed distillers and bootleggers alike found illegal, but highly creative means to continue to produce and deliver their liquor.

For firsthand accounts and tall tales of moonshine’s role in mountain life, search the online issues of “The Mountain Laurel – The Journal of Mountain Life.” From “medicinal uses” and working a still before school to a story about a gorilla protecting the still of one moonshiner, this collection is a treasure trove of memories and stories!

And Speaking of Gorillas and Whiskey…

Silverback Distillery, photo credit: Stephen Wassermann

To get your taste buds on premium Virginia spirits, there’s no need to hazard a brush with the law – just head up the mountain from Waynesboro to Silverback Distillery! Mixing tradition, pure ingredients, modern craftsmanship, and a fully licensed establishment, Silverback Distillery produces ultra-premium vodka, gin, rye whiskey and honey rye whiskey, with bourbon on the way. And as distillers of old, Silverback Distillery sources their grains from local farmers and then the spent mash returns to farms as animal feed and fertilizer.

Full Throttle Adventure

Photo credit: Blue Ridge Institute & Museum of Ferrum College

The connection between the illegal liquor trade and stock car racing is not what you may think. While legend has it that moonshiners were the forefathers of racing, according to the Blue Ridge Institute & Museum, very few bootleggers were oval track drivers. Rather, it’s the mechanics who are the moonshine connection. High-performance engines and modified suspensions were valuable to racers of all stripes as they attempted to outrun their pursuers. And while organized racing didn’t routinely call for a bootleg turn to avoid capture, the legends of the day needed every trick of the trade to take home the night’s purse.

Check out Living Legends of Auto Racing for stories of the men and women pioneers of racing.   And get a look at the speedways, advertisements, and cars of this region’s racing history with this extensive photo collection.

The Tradition Speeds On

Photo credit: Eastside Speedway

From the beginning, stock car racing has been a community and family affair, from the racing team to the spectators. Speedways became community hubs for entertainment, competition, holiday celebrations, and charity events.

Raceways across Virginia continue to be community gathering places. Eastside Speedway in Waynesboro is a prime example, with yearly activities that include nostalgia drag races, championship car shows, and family-friendly events, in addition to their full schedule of races.

Before you go, brush up on your hot rod terms so you’ll know your “stock” from your “mini-mod!” But when in doubt, just ask your new friend standing beside you cheering their driver. Waynesboro is, after all, renowned for our Good Nature!