Downingtown, Pennsylvania has been a place of some significance for over 200 years. It was a frontier trading post and an important supply depot for Washington’s army at Valley Forge. Roads come together at five points in the center of town at the exact center of Chester County, Pennsylvania. Downingtown is the midpoint between Lancaster and Philadelphia – Benjamin Franklin was contracted to place stone markers along the road that designated each mile. The town was known for paper mills, light manufacturing and the rich farmland run by Quakers of probity and discretion.
Downingtown has always had a supporting role – never the star – a role of which those crusty old Quakers would approve. But that is about to change, and the Downingtown Fine Arts Festival, Downingtown Main Street Association and the great Victory Brewing Company is going to implement that change. David Oleski and Stephen Oliver are bringing artists from all over the country for a weekend of cultural exuberance to our beloved Downingtown.
Not that we’ve been completely without note in the world at large. For example, we hold the record for most frog legs consumed at one time, in the world. At the Frog Leg Dinner, an almost 80 year-old annual event held at Saint Anthony’s Italian Social Club, 1000 men gather in one place at one time (invitation only). More testosterone than you have ever experienced in your life is let loose during the tribal shout of “Salute!” signaling the consumption of thousands of plump, frog legs. Catherine Quillman has just published a book on this unique event. Check it out.
Currently on the world stage, Downingtown is the proud home of Victory Brewing Company, an internationally known and much acclaimed brewery. Victory was founded in 1996 in by Bill Covaleski and Ron Barchet. I remember hearing about it when we first moved here from Texas that same year. Leah and I looked for it, winding around an old industrial area and finally giving up, figuring it was an urban legend told to newcomers to send them on a chase. But we persisted, and have been regular customers for 20 years.
Currently, my favorite Victory Brew is Dirt Wolf. Usually, I don’t favor hoppy beers, but Dirt Wolf drives me wild. It has flavors I never tasted before in my life and an alcohol content that makes one dream dreams and see visions. But Victory is not a vision, it’s very real and the vast restaurant/craft brewery parking lot is now filled with license plates of cars, trucks and vans making the pilgrimage to D-Town from all over the country. Not forgetting its roots, Victory is partnering up with the Downingtown Fine Arts Festival and Downingtown Main Street Association and doing what it has always done, support Downingtown.
Benjamin Franklin was aware of the exact midpoint on the main road between Philadelphia and Lancaster. George Washington knew the survival of his army at Valley Forge depended on the stores kept here. All those frogs from Taiwan realized, too late, how and where it was going to end for them. Downingtown – it smells like Victory.