Here it is, the great lineup of entertainment and activities for the 48th Annual Covered Bridge Festival! Although the festival grounds around the Madison County Courthouse are open from 9:00 to 5:00 on Saturday and Sunday, October 14 and 15, there are a couple of things happening on Friday, the 13th. (I hope that doesn’t give us bad luck for weather!)
The 16th Annual Covered Bridges of Madison County Antique Tractor Ride actually happens twice; on Friday and Saturday mornings, October 13 and 14, at 8:30 am. They rendezvous and depart from the Madison County Fairgrounds. Contact Curtis Saveraid at 515-210-7806 for information about participating.
And on Friday evening from 7:00 to 10:00 pm, after the setup crew has prepped the square for the festival, join them in celebrating at the Friday Night Kickoff Party at Rodell’s Smokehouse. All are invited to this free admission event, with live outdoor music by Chad Elliott and barbecue and beverages available for purchase. Bring a lawn chair and enjoy! Sponsored by Rodell’s, Atomic Roll-Off, and White Lions Bed & Breakfast.
Don’t Miss: Saturday Only
Many festival events and activities happen on both Saturday and Sunday, but a few are just one day or the other. For example, the Covered Bridge Race 5K Run/Walk takes place on Saturday, October 14th at 9:00 am. It starts and ends in Winterset City Park, and the registration table will be set up by 7:00 am. There is also a children’s race starting at 8:45 am. Check here for pre-registration information. All proceeds of this year’s race will be donated to Rebuild Cedar Bridge.
A dedication ceremony for the Madison County Scenic ByWays Art Piece, located at 1st Avenue and Washington St. (by the school administration building), is planned for 8:00 am on Saturday, before the festival grounds open. The piece is called “The Story of George Stout” and was designed by Michael Goodall. Donors and members of the public are invited to have coffee and a snack as they dedicate the art piece and show off the finishing touches that make it another great attraction for our area.
With registration and warm-up from 8:30 to 9:30 am on Saturday, Winterset Parks & Recreation Department hosts their annual horseshoe tournament, the “Madison County Covered Bridge Open,” at the Madison County Fairgrounds. Pitching begins at 10:00 am. There is an entry fee of $10. Sanctioned and unsanctioned participants are welcome. For more information contact the Winterset Parks & Recreation Department at 515-462-3258.
The Winterset High School Alumni Association knows that lots of people come home to visit on Covered Bridge Festival weekend, and they arrange two great events on Saturday for Winterset graduates of all ages to meet and greet. From 1:00 to 4:00 pm in the Community Room at Farmers & Merchants State Bank, there’s a Winterset High School Alumni Welcome Reception. And from 5:00 to 9:00 pm on Saturday evening, all alumni and their mates are welcome to stop by the Winterset High School All-Class Reunion at the Jackson Building on the Madison County Fairgrounds to enjoy food, drinks, class photos and fun. For more information contact Roxanne Rhoads at (515) 468-8239.
The theme of the 2017 Covered Bridge Festival is “Cinematic Madison County,” and as such, The Iowa Theater has planned some special activities to celebrate our connections to movie-making history. Two of those activities are happening only on Saturday. From 2:00 to 5:00 pm on October 14th, there’s a Screening of the Bridges of Madison County at the Iowa Theater, followed by a panel discussion with actress Sarah Schmitt Zahn (young Carolyn), Judy Trask (an extra in the Northside Cafe scene) and John Reed (who assisted with the film’s production). They will have lots of memories to share! And at 6:00 pm on Saturday, The Iowa Theater welcomes the filmmakers behind the upcoming documentary “Stout Hearted: George Stout, the Man Who Rescued Art” as they show exclusive clips from their upcoming documentary about Winterset native George Stout. Stout’s granddaughter and other family members will be in attendance. Immediately following the presentation, the feature film The Monuments Men will be screened. The Iowa Theater is also featured on the 48th Annual Covered Bridge Festival coin.
The historic First United Presbyterian Church will be hosting Guided Church History Tours at their location at 210 W. Green Street from 10:00 to 11:30 am and again from 2:30 to 4:00 on Saturday. View the Rose Stain Glass windows and rare pipe organ, please hear connections to the Underground Railroad in Madison County. Call 515-462-3261 for more information.
The field behind the old high school, the current Winterset School District Administration Building (110 W. Washington St.), is the location of one special activity on Saturday and another one on Sunday. On Saturday, October 14th, Boden Ballooning will offer Tethered Hot Air Balloon Rides from 4:30 pm to dusk (weather permitting). The cost is $20 per person.
Bring Love Ministry is a new, local non-profit organization that benefits foster children and families in Madison County. On Saturday evening from 5:00 to 7:00 pm in the Redeemer Church office parking lot (across from the John Wayne Museum), they are hosting an outdoor musical event called #DoSomething – Local churches come together to Bring Love. There will be local church musicians performing singer/songwriter, worship, and contemporary Christian music. There will also be games and a bounce house for the kids. More information can be found on the Bring Love Facebook page, Bring Love Ministry.
New Bridge Church will be hosting their Annual Loynachans Homecoming Gospel Sing at 1305 W. Jefferson Street from 5:30 to 9:00 pm on Saturday, free will offering.
From 6:00 to 9:00 pm on Saturday, all are invited to the annual Meet Me at the Bridge gathering at Winterset City Park in the North Shelter area. No tickets are needed this year, just stop by! There will be wine tasting by Covered Bridges Winery, food and beverages for purchase by Hy-Vee, and music by Doug Messerschmitt DJ service. A hand-made quilt entitled “Images of Cedar Bridge” will be auctioned off, with the proceeds going to the effort to Rebuild Cedar Bridge.
Another opportunity to support the effort to rebuild Cedar Bridge will happen from 7:00 to 9:00 pm on Saturday evening at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church Fellowship Hall (1026 N. 8th Ave). The Winterset Knights of Columbus are hosting a Bingo Night, with all proceeds being donated to Cedar Bridge. Just $20 for 20 games, and an evening of family fun! Concessions will be available too.
Evening activities at the Madison County Historical Complex include an outdoor gathering with s’mores starting at 6:45 pm on Saturday, and a Nighttime Civil War Cannon Firing at 7:15 pm. The Madison County Historical Complex is at 815 S. 2nd Avenue. Bring lawn chairs or a blanket. Attendance is free.
Both Days, Saturday & Sunday
The Winterset Firefighters Association Pancake Breakfast will be held Saturday and Sunday, October 14 & 15, from 6:00 to 11:00 am at the Fire Station southeast of the festival grounds; $8 for adults, free for children three and under.
From 9:00 am to 5:00 pm both days, the Covered Bridge Festival on the Square will include 0ver 150 vendors displaying a wide variety of arts and crafts, local wines, food, farmers market booths, antiques and vintage items, demonstrations, and more. Admission is $2.00, and children 11 and under are FREE. A complete list of vendors and a map of the festival grounds can be found here.
The Pioneer Village area surrounding the Courthouse Square will include live demonstrations of crafts such as spinning, weaving, jewelry making, woodcarving, pottery, and more. Just off the square in George Washington Carver Park, southeast of the festival grounds, you’ll find the Master Gardeners’ Demonstrations, based on the life and work of George Washington Carver. Explore cotton plants, make peanut butter, and enjoy the park dedicated to Carver’s legacy and time spent in Winterset.
One area of special interest to kids in the Pioneer Village, on the northwest corner of the courthouse lawn, is the opportunity to Create a Covered Bridge. Hosted by Tom and Molly Clause, with assistance by the Winterset Woodworking I class at Winterset High School, kids can use pre-made kits to create a replica of the Cedar Covered Bridge and learn about the unique and historic construction of the covered bridges.
Other kid-friendly favorites can be found at the MCFEE booth (learn about butterflies and do butterfly crafts), Winterset Art Center (enjoy crafts from 10am to 2pm on Saturday), ISU Extension and Outreach (create seed balls), the Madison County Historical Complex (one-room schoolhouse activities and more), and Freedom for Youth Ministries (Pumpkin Relay Races, Hop Scotch, the Corn Box, and more). There will also be pony rides near Madhaus Gallery and pedal tractors to ride near Carver Park. See more details about Kidz Korner Activities here.
As always, there will be live entertainment on two stages from 9:00 to 5:00 pm both days. Our featured entertainer of the festival this year is Sarah Schmitt Zahn, the Winterset native who played Young Carolyn in The Bridges of Madison County movie. Check detailed entertainment listings on this page. All your favorites are back — the Benge Family, the Spelling Bee, the Winterset’s Got Talent contest, and more!
As mentioned previously, The Iowa Theater is contributing some cinematic-themed activities to this year’s festival. In August and September they collected submissions for a Covered Bridge Filmmaking Contest, and the winning entries will be played on a continuous loop from 9:00 am to 1:00 pm both days. Stop by (FREE) to watch the films from around the world that feature a bridge in some way, and vote on your favorite. Also, from 10:00 to 2:00 pm both days, Spot a Star! Be on the lookout for famous Iowa-based movie characters walking the square. Pick up your Spot a Star card at the gate when you purchase your entrance ticket, and when you spot a star, get a photo of yourself with them and a sticker for your card. Spot them all and drop off your filled card at The Iowa Theater’s festival booth for a chance to win a prize.
During this year’s festival, 3D Chalk Artist Kathleen Roling will create something wonderful right in front of our eyes. Once she’s finished with her creation (on the street near the southwest corner of the square), it will be a great destination for photo opportunities.
The annual Covered Bridge Quilters Quilt Show will be open at Winterset Elementary School, 404 South 2nd Ave. (enter at the South 4th Ave. driveway), from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm on Saturday and 10:00 am to 4:00 pm on Sunday. Admission is $5.00 for a great show featuring numerous quilts, a raffle quilt, a display of baby quilts for the group’s NICU Baby Quilt Project, handmade items for sale, a bargain area with remnants, and several vendors.
In addition to their Saturday-only activities mentioned above, the Madison County Historical Complex Tours & Passport to the Past Activities will be in full swing both days from 10:00 to 5:00. Located at 815 S. 2nd Avenue, the Historical Complex will offer shuttle rides to and from the festival grounds from the information tent on the northeast corner. Out at the complex, enjoy the field mercantile, penny candy sales, family fun activities at Tusha School, blacksmith demonstrations, horse and wagon rides, Civil War camp skirmishes, and more. Admission is free. The Historical Society also organizes tours of the Madison County Courthouse, led by Susan B. Anthony, departing at 11:00, 12:00, 1:00 and 2:00 both days, departing from the east courthouse door. And don’t miss the Civil War Fashion Show they host, held at 1:00 pm on Saturday on the Mel Penrod stage. Click for more information.
While you’re on the square Saturday and Sunday, stop by the former Hoover Law Office at 69 Jefferson Street to vote for your favorite bra creation made for Madison County Bras for the Cause, just $1.00 per vote. All proceeds stay with Bras for the Cause to fund cancer screening for Madison County residents.
From 9:00 to 5:00 on Saturday and Sunday, enjoy a Horse & Carriage Ride by Dream Carriage in Winterset City Park for $5.00 per rider. At the same time, Horse & Wagon Rides are available for a driving tour throughout the beautiful neighborhoods of historic Winterset for $10 per rider, departing from the west side of the John Wayne Birthplace Museum. The John Wayne Birthplace & Museum will be open for tours from 9:00 to 5:00 both days, and be sure to ask them for information about the John Wayne Birthplace Trail Self-Guided Tour. Maps will be available. The Iowa Quilt Museum will also have extended hours for the weekend, 9:00 am to 5:00 pm both days.
The Cowboys of Wild West Creations will be back and roaming the festival grounds this year, and you can meet them and get your picture taken from 10:00 to noon and again from 2:00 to 4:00 on Saturday, and from 10:00 to 11:00 on Sunday. On both days at noon there will be a High Noon Shootout on the northwest corner of the square (using blanks, of course) based on a famous scene from a John Wayne movie — can you guess which one? And on Sunday, the Cowboys will be in the parade.
The Winterset Art Center will be open on Saturday from 10:00 am to 4:30 pm for patrons to view the new gallery exhibit, Variations, by artist James Givan, as well as touring the studio and participating in children’s art activities. They’ll also be open on Sunday from 10:00 am to 1:00 pm.
The Winterset Rotary Club will be giving Covered Bridge Bus Tours from 10:00 am to 3:30 pm on Saturday and Sunday, with knowledgeable tour guides. Purchase tickets at the ticket booth on the southwest side of the festival grounds, near The Cellar. Buses depart from Winterset School District Administration Building, 110 W. Washington Street. Tours are 2 hours in duration and cost $10.00.
Don’t Miss: Sunday Only
From 8:00 am to noon, participants can register for the 31st Annual Madison County Car Show, hosted by the Central Iowa Auto Club. Judging begins at 1:30 pm, and awards will be presented at 3:00 pm. The show is on the grounds of the Winterset Schools Administration Building, 110 W. Washington St.
And on Sunday at 2:00 pm, the annual Antique Vehicle and Covered Bridge Festival Parade will depart from Winterset High School, organized by the Winterset Lions Club. Click for route map and info.
Although many people head for home after the parade, there’s no need to leave so early! Remember that the festival grounds remain open until 5:00 on Sunday, and there’s some great entertainment planned, such as Sarah Zahn on the Benge Family Stage at 4:00 pm, and the Winterset High School Vocal Showcase on the Mel Penrod Stage at 4:30.
Is there more? Of course there’s more. There’s no way I got everything included or the details exactly right, because Covered Bridge Festival comes together with the help of an incredible number of community partners and helpers, many of whom are volunteering their time. Many more questions about Covered Bridge Festival can be answered here (such as, Who are the sponsors? Where is the handicap parking? What is the schedule of events organized by the hour instead of by the day? etc.). Thank you to Heather Riley at the Madison County Chamber of Commerce for her work in orchestrating this event. And to Molly Clause and Vicky Brenner, this year’s co-chairs: Kudos, and here’s hoping for the best possible weather!
Thank you for reading The Winterset Citizen. All community announcements are provided at no charge, courtesy of the following sponsors:
American State Bank
Angel Wings & CT
Blanchard Family Dentistry
Bridges Financial Associates
Covered Bridge Realty
Daniel Evans, Edward Jones
Farmers & Merchants State Bank
Farm Bureau FS, Scot Clark
Groth’s Gardens & Greenhouses
Homefront Real Estate
The Iowa Theater
Lowe Chiropractic Clinic
Madison County Health Care System
Madison County Historical Society
Madison County ISU Extension & Outreach
McDonald Tree Service
Midwest Heritage Bank
Pine Creek Ltd.
Rusty Stars Alpacas
State Farm, Charlotte Speer
Union State Bank
White Lions Bed & Breakfast
Winterset Ballet & Dance Studio
Winterset Optimist Club
Winterset Parks & Recreation Department