Covered Bridge Capital of the World
Covered bridges were a vital part of Midwestern communities in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. Providing not only a way to pass over large ravines and bodies of water, the structures provided a safe place for cars to park and wait out storms. Prior to automobiles, the bridges helped allow horses and buggies to pass safely, as horses are prone to fearing open bridges where running water can be seen and heard.
Of course, the practical reason for covering the bridges was, since bridges were made of wood, covering them protected the lumber from the elements, thus the bridge’s structure lasted longer. The romantic idea of covered bridges being known as kissing bridges, providing cover for courting couples, provides a more exciting story.
Today, few of these structures remain. Here in Central Indiana, however, we are fortunate to have Parke County, home to 31 covered bridges, and known as the ‘Covered Bridge Capital of the World’.
Rockville, Indiana is approximately an hour and twenty minutes west of Indianapolis, making it a great choice for a day trip to observe the beauty and history of these bridges. In addition to the bridges, though, are a number of other activities such as festivals, craft shows, and antique stores to entertain all ages and interests.
The largest event each year is the Covered Bridge Festival. Beginning the 2nd Friday in October, this festival is nationally known as one of the largest and offers a wide array of shopping and food vendors.
The festival takes place on the courthouse lawn with crafters and vendors on the streets all around the courthouse. Free entertainment takes place each day, and the event runs from 9a.m. to 6 p.m. daily.
The Covered Bridge Art Gallery features displays from local artists while The Historic Ritz Theater offers entertainment, including a traditional melodrama by the Parke Players, for the entire family.
Making your way from town to town, bridge to bridge, you will find other fun places to stop and visit. One such place is Bridgeton, home to the most famous covered bridge in Indiana. It runs across a river and waterfall and alongside the Bridgeton Mill, the oldest continuously operating mill west of the Allegheny Mountains.
Bridgeton is set up like an old fashioned mill town and has several stores open all year, but a few that are only open during the big festivals.
Mansfield’s Cornbread Festival, Montezuma’s Hog Roast, and Mecca’s one room schoolhouse are a few of the other fun things to visit in Parke County, along with Bloomingdale’s for some of the Quaker’s homemade apple butter, or the Sugar Creek Flea market nearby on Highway 41.
Parke County is host to a variety of other events throughout the year which you can find on the website’s calendar. Among these are community yard sales, sidewalk sales, a strawberry festival, quilt shows, Bike the Bridges and a Maple Syrup Fair.
Christmas time brings another round of activities in Parke County beginning in late November. A Covered Bridge Christmas takes place the first part of December and includes a Holiday Tour of Homes.
For a complete list of events in Parke County, check out the events calendar and sign up for the Parke County newsletter. Love the picturesque beauty of the covered bridges? Order a wall calendar today.