Spend a classic crisp Indiana fall day at the Parke County Covered Bridge Festival.
In 8th grade, my best friend swiped her mom’s copy of The Bridges of Madison County and we read that thing front to back. The most scandalous part? The inscription on the cover written to my friend’s mom by her boyfriend. Yes, we read that thing, cover to cover. When I moved to Indiana, I figured that with all of the bridges around here, the novel should have taken place in Indiana, not Iowa.
The covered bridges in the Hoosier state are such a big deal that one county dedicates an entire 10-day festival to the landmarks. The Parke County Covered Bridge Festival is a longstanding tradition and begins the 2nd Friday in October.
It’s no wonder Parke County finds an identity worth celebrating in its covered bridges. The area boasts over 30 of them! You’ll find 10 distinct festival sites in communities and towns throughout the county, each with its own fall festivities, food, entertainment, and of course, bridges.
The 2023 Parke County Covered Bridge Festival will be held October 13-22.
Parke County Covered Bridge Festival
Several years back, Jay, Lulu, and I loaded up the car and headed west for the bridges of Parke County and our first Covered Bridge Festival experience. Parke County is the “covered bridge capital of the world” and has 31 bridges. Beginning on the second Friday of October each year, the festival runs for 10 days.
Our GPS indicated that it would take about an hour and a half to get to Parke County when we followed 465 to Rockville Road/36, but it took us 3 hours with all of the traffic. Take I-70 if you want a less “scenic,” but more efficient route! On the other hand, if you don’t mind taking the time, there are many, many yard sales that take place all along 36.
Grab a Covered Bridge Tour Map in Rockville
The number of people attending the Covered Bridge Festival was such a surprise to me! This is known as Indiana’s Largest Festival for a reason. We started out in a tent on the courthouse lawn in Rockville, which serves as Festival Headquarters. Food vendors, crafters, and artists were set up with all of their wonderful items for sale. At my first Covered Bridge Festival, I was very confused that there wasn’t a bridge to be seen! The confusion was resolved when we stopped by the festival booth and asked about the bridges.
We were given a map that detailed the self-guided driving tours available. A map is not necessary because different colored routes are set up with great signage for drivers and bicycle riders. Back to the car we went (bring a few dollars for parking) and set off on a tour that took us to several bridges and finally, we ended up in Bridgeton. OH.MY.FESTIVAL!
Bridgeton: The Heart of the Festival
With over 400 vendors, Bridgeton is THE place to be for the Covered Bridge Festival. I’m so glad that we didn’t miss it! Plan for crowds, plan for traffic, and plan to spend the entire day! Bridgeport is a must-visit.
Route your vehicle to the Bridgeton Mill, which will put you smack dab in the middle of the festival. The address is 8104 Bridgeton Rd, Bridgeton, IN 47836. Have fun and enjoy the nice fall drive!
In addition to more vendors than you’ll find at any other festival site, you’ll discover several beautiful historic buildings and structures in Bridgeton. The Bridgeton Mill was built in 1823 and is back in operation today, producing flour, cornmeal, and more to be sold to festival-goers each year. Other buildings dating back to the 1820’s can be found in the historic district. Take a stroll back in time while soaking in all the excitement surrounding the local covered bridge.
10 Distinct Festival Sites
While all the festivities in Parke County are united around a common date and theme, each community celebrates the Covered Bridge Festival in its own unique way. Follow your festival map to get a taste of what each town has to offer.
- Rockville (Festival Headquarters)
- Bellmore (Fall florals, pumpkins, and yard sales)
- Billie Creek Village (3 covered bridges, historic sites, and shopping)
- Mansfield (Flour mill, hundreds of vendors, and food)
- Bloomingdale (Famous apple butter at the Friends Meeting House)
- Bridgeton (Historic district, mill and covered bridge, hundreds of vendors)
- Rosedale (Quilt sale, country market)
- Mecca (Mecca schoolhouse, covered bridge, and Parke County’s oldest tavern)
- Montezuma (Antiques, wagon tours, famous cullers and roast hog and beans)
- Tangier (3 covered bridges, the Sandlady’s Gourd Farm, homemade pie)
For more Indiana fall fun, visit one of our favorite pumpkin patches.
Find more local fall festivals.