Washington County fest amuses drill workers

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Posters for the inaugural all-day "Roughneck Fest" at the Washington County fairgrounds in Chartiers announced: "Warning: Events may cause excessive testosterone levels."

Man, they weren't kidding.

There was arm wrestling and boxing and mechanical bull-riding. There was a scheduled Strong Man competition, with tire-flipping, keg-stacking and truck-pushing.

Country bands played all day and shiny big rig trucks were in abundance on the infield of the fairgrounds. There were cook-offs for ribs and chili, the spicier the better. There were funnel cake and french fries. The Avella volunteer fire department was cooking up a storm as well, as smells of smoke and meat grilling wafted through the warm, windy afternoon.

The vendor tables lining the walls of the main exhibition hall were piled with merchandise any "Sons of Anarchy" fan would be happy to own: shiny carved-handle knives, silver jewelry, bawdy T-shirts -- a pink, ladies sleepshirt proclaimed "I [heart] drilling" -- and accessories bedazzled, blinged-out or both.

But there also was a practical side to the festivities. In addition to providing a day of fun for workers and their families in the gas and oil industry, the Roughneck Fest was an information fair.

Admission to the all-day event was free, except for the evening's boxing matches. Proceeds from Roughneck Fest benefited the Pennsylvania Firefighters Athletic League.

The Pennsylvania Independent Oil & Gas Association, a nonprofit trade association, was a Roughneck Fest sponsor, as well as many of the big names in the local gas industry.

Vendor tables included ShaleStuff.com, a website and newsletter devoted to "responsible shale gas development."

"We want workers to know 'This is yours, too, it's not just business to business,' " said ShaleStuff administrator Kathleen Barillaro. "We want to bring the community together."

Also present was NoGreenSlime.com, which bills itself as exposing "the distortions, half-truths and lies by groups misrepresenting the environmental impacts of natural gas development."

The Roughneck Fest was presented by Washington's Penn Commercial Business/Technical School.

"Being that we are a school, we discovered that we have programs that really match up with the gas and oil industry, such as electricians and drafting," said Ron Zubaty, Penn Commercial assistant director of admissions.

"We see a trickle-down effect from our existing programs where you have people moving into the area that were from out of state, and they bring their families with them.

"We're not expecting that the gas and oil workers will be attending the school but maybe their family members will be doing that."

Advertising agency Direct Results BSP coordinated the event.

"We knew from the beginning we wanted it to be a really fun day for the oil and gas workers, whether you're a company man, down to the roughnecks, or whatever you do," said Pam Blaker, who co-owns the agency. "We definitely want to make this an annual event."

marcellusshale - neigh_washington

Maria Sciullo: msciullo@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1478. Twitter: @MariaSciulloPG.


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