Parke County. Whatís so special about a tiny county in Western Indiana? Youíd be surprised. Parke County claims the title of the Covered Bridge Capital of the World and it hosts one of the biggest festivals incorporating covered bridges. The Covered Bridge Festival, which has been happening since 1957, is a great spot to enjoy some fall adventure and shopping.
The Covered Bridge Festival just ended for 2010 and occured from October 8-17 in several different locations throughout Parke County. Some of the different locations of the Covered Bridge Festival include Mansfield Village, Bridgeton, Billie Creek Village, Montezuma, Mecca, Rosedale, and Rockville, which is actually the headquarters of the Covered Bridge Festival. All of these locations feature some type of activities, whether itís shopping, dining, or sight-seeing. Most of the areas that feature shopping are open from 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.
This past weekend I visited Mansfield Village and Bridgeton, which are both major locations in the Covered Bridge Festival. Both Mansfield Village and Bridgeton are charming old mill towns that, of course, feature pretty spectacular covered bridges. My family has been coming to the Covered Bridge Festival for as long as I can remember, but this was my first year at the festival and I was pretty impressed.
Any event I attend will get a positive nod from me if there is a wide variety of good food. Neither Mansfield Village nor Bridgeton disappointed in the mouth-watering fried food category. I personally had some of the best Chili Cheese fries Iíd ever had in my life. Even the sign on the booth claimed they were the best in the world, and let me tell you that they werenít lying! †I also sampled an amazing, gigantic tenderloin and more than a few handfuls of Kettle Corn. Even though I felt like I needed to go run 10 miles to burn off all of those fried food calories I had just inhaled, it was all worth it.
Now I know most people that attend the Covered Bridge Festival donít drive all the way there for the food, so Iíll get to the best part, the shopping! There was such an assortment of products that were being sold in tons of booths and tents. There were a lot of flea market areas that featured more mainstream products such as t-shirts, hats, and other small trinkets, but the shopping that coerces my mom to drive over two and half hours was the country life inspired craft vendors. †My momís house is very country- inspired with many painted, rustic wooden crafts, which meant she was in absolute heaven with vendor after vendor selling exactly what she wanted.
While both the food and the shopping were great, the most breathtaking part of the festivals was the scenery. Parke County is located in gorgeous Southern Indiana, which is infamous for their beautiful forest areas. It is especially beautiful at this time of year when it is primetime for the leaves to change colors. Even the drive to the festivals was stunning. All of these festivals are located pretty far out in the country. It was extremely relaxing to just be in the country with no stress of the city anywhere near you.
There really was something for everyone at the two festivals that I went to. Even though it was a tiring two days, it ended up being a blast. A word of Advice: Make sure to ration your time carefully. With so much to see and do, it is easy to lose track of time and never even see some of the best parts of the festival! So if youíre looking for something to do this fall, head to Western Indiana for a few days of fall fun thatís full of beautiful scenery, amazing food, and great shopping finds.