Visitors to the Parke County Covered Bridge Festival (link) on Oct.18, 2013, were greeted with beautiful fall weather. Few trees showed much in the way of fall colors. Some were simply green; others sported muted colors or bare branches from the last summer drought. There were a few in bright, brilliant fall colors.
The trees were simply a footnote to the thousands of visitors to the area. Not confined to Parke County, neighbors in counties adjacent took advantage of the hordes of tourists from around the Midwest.
Heading down IN 59, Waveland (Montgomery County) residents had garage sales. Bellmore, a crossroads whose fame lies in the Big Berry Drive-In, could boast of garage sales and flea markets serving hundreds of tourists. In fact in the late afternoon, there was 2 mile back-up of cars in the northbound lane coming into the IN59 and US36 crossroad there.
Mansfield, one of the 3 main locations of the festival, had several fields of parked cars by 11 a.m. The turn off to Bridgeton, another of the 3 locations, was obscured by parked cars at Mansfield.
Nearing Bridgeton, a field, once grazed by cattle, now has a gravel lot, steel barn and several booths. The back of cars began about a mile east of town. The line moved in good fashion. Soon we were parked, fortunately finding a spot near the gate, recently vacated by an earlier visitor.
Like Mansfield, Bridgeton has a mill and covered bridge. The mill, although converted to electric, is a working mill and grinds a variety of flours. Added since my last visit was a bakery, using the mill’s flour for various goodies. Pumpkin Moon Pies, made in the bakery, being one of the day’s surprises.
Food vendors were throughout the village, although there was a large food court “downtown” with dozens of food choices. Ham and beans were available, made in cauldrons in the booth, accompanied by corn bread baked in the mill bakery. In addition to the normal festival fare, there were Indiana favorites and oddities. Alligator ka-bobs, persimmon pudding, walleye sandwiches and butterfly chips were among old favorites and oddities.
Hundreds of vendors offered handmade crafts, jewelry, fudge, antiques and flea market finds. Artists were also on hand to demonstrate their craft and sell their wares.
More in part 2