Show me the way to the next whiskey light

It might take a boat to get there
John Benson
Apr 9, 2014
Some signs are forgettable. Such as “No shirt, no shoes, no service.”
 
However, at the opposite end of importance, there are signs where tradition meets practicality. That in a nutshell describes the seemingly world famous “whiskey” light at the equally famous Round House Bar at Put-in-Bay, where this weekend a switch is thrown and the spring tourist season is a go.
 
Someone who understands the gravitas of the event is Islands singer-songwriter Ray Fogg, who will be playing from 2 to 6 p.m. on Sunday after the “whiskey” light is turned on for the first time in 2014.
 
Not only is Fogg a frequent musician at the Round House, but nearly two decades ago he penned the apt song “Look for the Whiskey Light.” The lyrics include, “We go our separate ways in the winter days/So far away but on some April night we’ll see the site of the burning bright, the whiskey light.”
 
“Long before it became a public event, it used to be a few private people invited by the general manager at the time,” Fogg said. “We’d come to the bar, have some champagne and turn on the light for the first time. That’s when I got an idea for the song.”
 
Back in the ‘90s, Fogg said the general manager would often place a newspaper ad that said, “Look for the whiskey light” announcing the Round House opening for the season.
 
“Sometimes I think she placed that ad before they actually knew when they were going to open,” Fogg laughed.
 
Current Round House General Manager Paula Garsteck is keeping the tradition of the “whiskey” light illumination.
 
“The ‘whiskey’ light going on signifies the opening of the Round House,” Garsteck said. “The whiskey light is red neon that hangs above our front door. It’s our open-closed light. If the whiskey light is on, we’re open. If the whiskey light is off, we’re closed.”
 
Another Round House tradition regarding the “whiskey” light is a t-shirt that changes every year to commemorate the spring lighting event. And considering Mother Nature’s horrific winter, Garsteck said she’s optimistic this weekend will be packed with folks looking to shake off any cabin fever.
 
“It’s kind of symbolic when that ‘whiskey’ light goes on, it says a new season has started at Put-in-Bay,” Fogg said. “When I look around the crowd from the stage, I don’t just see tourists but also many residents of the island and business owners and employees of businesses.
 
“For outsiders it might be hard to grasp, but the ‘whiskey’ light itself holds much more symbolism than you might imagine. We really see it as symbolizing the island.”
 
For more information, visit theroundhousebar.com.