Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Madison County's 40th Annual Covered Bridge Festival

Madison County, Iowa is the home of six covered bridges - Hogback located northwest of Winterset, Cedar northeast near Cedar Lake, Holliwell southeast, Roseman southwest, Imes at St. Charles, and Cutler-Donahue in the Winterset City Park. All the bridges were built in the 1870s except Cedar. Cedar bridge was destroyed by arsonists (never caught) in 2002 and a replica was built on the same site. Because of all the interest in the bridges, The Covered Bridge Festival was started 40 years ago mainly to promote tourism for the area and to provide funds for upkeep of the bridges. The Festival is always held the 2nd full weekend of October and this year’s Festival takes place this coming weekend, the 10th & 11th. This festival celebrates not only the bridges but also several other things that Madison County and Winterset are proud of.

Guided bus tours of the bridges and other attractions are available. These include the birthplace of John Wayne, who was born in Winterset. His birthplace is now a museum and a larger museum and visitor center is planned for the future.

There is a small park just east of the southeast corner of the square in Winterset commemorating George Washington Carver, who lived there for 2 years before going to college in Indianola. He later went on to develop nearly 325 uses for peanuts, including peanut butter. (Thank you George!)

The Winterset City Park Maze is one of a few hedge mazes in the United States and the only one west of the Mississippi. Also in this park is Clark Tower, a 3-story castle-like tower built of native limestone honoring Madison County’s early pioneers. The tower sits on a hill overlooking the Middle River valley and the view from the top of the tower is spectacular on a fall day. A large rock in the park tells about the Delicious apple that was developed by Jesse Hiatt in 1872 near Peru and is now enjoyed everywhere

Our historic town square is very photogenic with its beautiful courthouse and old store buildings with interesting histories. Informative plaques have been put on the buildings telling of their past use.

The Winterset Art Center, located 2 blocks south of the square, is believed to have been an underground railway site.

The Madison County Historical Complex is home to several buildings, including the old Winterset depot built in 1872; the Zion Church built in 1881; the Field Mercantile Store from the 1920s; the Martin Bros. gas station built in 1934 with a rock face; the Bevington-Kaser House, a mansion built in 1856; an old township post office and log schoolhouse; and the Elmer McKee Agricultural Building, a huge barn that was built to hold farm related items. There will be a Civil War camp set up on the complex grounds with cannon shots thoughout the day and a battle fought at 4:30 on Saturday and noon on Sunday.

Madison County is the headquarters of Fons & Porter who publish a quilting magazine, have a local fabric shop, and a quilting show on PBS. There is a large quilt show during the Festival each year. A handmade quilt is raffled and the proceeds help provide baby quilts for the neonatal units at Des Moines’ hospitals.

There is also a large car show on Sunday followed by a parade at 2 P.M. featuring many of the cars, bands, and floats. A local couple is honored yearly by being selected as Festival King and Queen. This year’s royalty are Willard and Eva Short.

A full schedule of activities takes place around the city square along with demonstrations, homemade crafts and foods for sale, a spelling bee and games for kids. Free movies are shown at the theater on Saturday including The Bridges of Madison County and John Wayne’s True Grit and McClintock. For even more information, check out the Festival web site here. Admission to the square is $3 per person or $2 in advance. I hope you’ll join us.


Tiffany @ Lattes And Life said...

Oh, how neat! I love learning about other parts of the country. Thanks for sharing :)

Kat Bryan said...

You're welcome Tiffany.

Going to be COLD this weekend though. NOT good weather to draw big crowds like usual.