The Parke County Covered Bridge Festival is a much loved traditional event that has been celebrated every October since 1957. The event starts at the county seat, Rockville, with booths of crafts and food and spreads out across the county and takes place the first two weeks of October. At one time there were at least 53 covered bridges in Parke County, but now there are 31 in existence and 10 of those are not open to vehicle traffic.
Folks come from miles around to see the many historical covered bridges in the county, visit the center of Rockville, Indiana, shop at the many roadside stands and booths, and taste delicious Autumn inspired foods. Also, area families set up yard sales and craft bazaars along the streets and roads. This is a hugely popular festival and claims to be the largest of its kind in the nation and this was it’s 57th year. It makes a great drive through the Indiana countryside while the fields are being harvested and the tree leaves are turning beautiful colors.
I decided to drive to Mansfield, Indiana where one of the old covered bridges is located and is the site of a huge set up of booths, tents and food venues. Huge doesn’t quite describe it, maybe massive is a better word. The booths went on for what seemed forever and there were hundreds of people everywhere. My photos don’t quite express how many people there were. But despite the number, the crowds flowed along and I never really felt bogged down in my progress through the festival.
Years ago, as a young newlywed, I came to this festival when it was a new novelty and it was much smaller. The items for sale were all hand made by Indiana artisans and the bridge was easy to view and walk through. There was an old general store here too, with wooden floors and old fashioned grocery items for sale.
This trip, though, I found there were many kinds of merchandise, very little of it made by local artisans. There were handmade crafts, yes, but the kind you would find in bulk at Hobby Lobby or other big outlets, and tents of clothing, sweatshirts, socks, perfumes, gardening objects, wooden plaques, scarves, purses, bags, farm tools, almost anything and everything – items that I could find at the local Walmart. If you’re looking for a bargain, you can probably find it here. People bring their own handcarts to fill up with purchases.
Food venues were pretty much ‘fair’ food – elephant ears, steak sandwiches, popcorn, corndogs, hamburgers, corn on the cob, fudge, cookies, and the list and tents went on and on – most to be eaten on the move, with few places to sit.
Below are photos of the Mansfield Roller Mill, inside and out: