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History of the Madison County Covered Bridge Festival

From “The Festival Flyer,” 1977

“Our Festival evolved from the realization that we had a treasury of history and heritage right in our backyard. For years our seven covered bridges have attracted visitors from all over the United States; people who come to see and admire, or to capture on canvas or film the bridges’ rustic charm. But, not only do the bridges lend a note of nostalgia to the scenery, on close examination they tell us of another era; when wood pegs were used to secure the massive beams in the bridges.

… Our festival is unique in that it is not simply a ‘craft’ festival. The visitor is invited to participate in many of the old-time entertainments, such as square dancing, marble shooting, or rifle markmanship.

We sincerely welcome all our visitors this weekend. There is nothing that pleases us more than to share our community with you, so make yourselves at home. We hope you enjoy your visit and that you’ll come back and see us again.”
— by Pat Nelson

The Madison County Covered Bridge Festival during the '70s.

The first Madison County Covered Bridge Festival was held in 1970, started by a group of active and passionate citizens. Eventually, as the event grew in size and scope, the Madison County Chamber of Commerce was asked to take on the job of organizing it. Some things about it may have changed since its inception, as one would expect after nearly fifty years, but much also remains the same. We still honor our six remaining bridges with regular tours throughout the weekend. As expenses have grown over the years (electricity, insurance, etc.), the cost of entry has gone from Free to just $3.00 per adult, with kids under 11 still free. We do have craft booths, as they originally did, and many of them today display hand-made goods made by local artists: pottery, quilts, doll clothes, paintings, drawings, photographs, jewelry, woodcrafts, fiber arts, and more. We also have an array of demonstrators and old-time activities that visitors are welcome to participate in, including an antique tractor ride, a Civil War fashion show, sheep-shearing, wool spinning, a corn box for the kids to play in, marble shooting, Passport to the Past activities at the Madison County Historical Complex (penny candy sales, horse and wagon rides, old-fashioned school lessons, a Civil War reenactment, etc.), and the annual Antique Vehicle and Covered Bridge Festival Parade. Visitors can also see an old fashioned spelling bee and an antique car show.

One thing has not changed at all. There is nothing that pleases us more than to share our community with you, and we hope you’ll enjoy your visit and come back again!

The Madison County Covered Bridge Festival attendees in the 1970s.