On Oct. 12-13, the 44th Anniversary of the Madison County Covered Bridge Festival will be celebrated in Winterset, with the theme "The Bridges are Calling."
As the first Covered Bridge Festival brochure in 1970 said, "The Festival will take place in Winterset, during the season when the wooded hills are ablaze with color. Designed to give visitors a glimpse of life in Madison County before the turn of the 20th century, the setting of the Festival and the bridges throughout the county are an artist's paradise and a camera bug's heaven."
What was true 44 years ago is still true today. The six 130+ year-old covered bridges are one of the main attractions and centerpieces of the Covered Bridge Festival. Guided bus-tours sponsored by the Winterset Rotarians are offered throughout the weekend, with stops at a few of the bridges.
Many Tour Directors bring groups to Madison County all year-long to experience a "Storybook Tour," which is packed full of history lessons about the making of the movie "Bridges of Madison County," filmed in 1994.
Live demonstrations include: sheep shearing; glass jewelry making, woodcarving, as well as a cannon demonstration, pony rides and competitions such as an "Old Fashioned Spelling Bee" at the festival. Along with wonderful artisan booths, local storytellers embody famous persons who relate tales of early Iowa history - like Susan B. Anthony and Uncle Henry Wallace, two well-known men who each called Winterset home, Scavenger hunts and other old-fashioned games.
Other activities not to be missed will include penny candy sales, a civil war battle, blacksmith shop demonstrations, old-fashioned one-room-school lessons, and horse-drawn wagon rides - all taking place at the Madison County Historical Complex.
Sunday events not to be missed include the 28th Annual Madison County Car Show put on by the Central Iowa Car Club, as well as the historically anticipated Covered Bridge Festival Parade, organized by the Winterset Lions Club. Please note that this year's car show location has changed and will now take place at Washington Street and S. Second Ave.
A collectable coin is struck each year commemorating a local historic structure. This year the Roseman Bridge - Madison County's most famous and beloved covered bridge - is featured in a commemorative fashion. Coins are available for purchase at the Chamber of Commerce office and at the festival for $6 each.
The two-day festival hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Oct. 12-13th. There will be a festival grounds admission fee of $2 each day (children 11 & under being free). Parking is free with shuttle services to outlying lots and various other Festival venues.