BY BRIAN HAYTCHER

bhaytcher@starbeacon.com

After a year away due to COVID-19, the Ashtabula County Covered Bridge Festival is here again.

Michele Victor, President of the Ashtabula County Covered Bridge Festival, said not hosting the event in 2020 due to COVID-19 was horrible.

Non-profit groups host various fundraisers at the covered bridges, Victor said. The festival is a significant fundraiser for those groups, she said.

“It was horrible for us, but we knew how badly [the non-profit groups] were hurting as well, not being able to raise money that they desperately needed,” Victor said.

There will be a number of food vendors, a craft show, pancake breakfast and entertainment on the festival’s stage, among other attractions, Victor said.

“One of our main draws this year is the return of Sara [Winter],” Victor said. “She is with a group called the Chainsaw Chix ... and she will take a piece of wood and turn it into a masterpiece with her chainsaw.”

Winter plans to do three shows a day on Saturday and Sunday, Victor said.

A full schedule for the event can be found on the festival’s website, www.coveredbridgefestival.org.

The festival’s parade will take place in downtown Jefferson at 1:30 p.m., Victor said.

About 15,000 people attend the festival every year, but more are expected to attend this year, Victor said. 

The way people participate in the festival varies, Victor said. Many people start at the central festival in Jefferson on Saturday for the parade, then travel to other bridges, she said. Each bridge has something distinct going on, Victor said.

“Of course, the Smolen Gulf Bridge is our No. 1 resource that people want to see, because it’s the longest [covered] bridge in the United States, but they also want to go see the Liberty Street Bridge because it’s the smallest one in the United States,” Victor said.

“Harpersfield is one of the most historic and beautiful bridges, and Windsor Mills, everyone thinks is just beautiful. It’s one of the few yellow covered bridges in the United States.”

The Covered Bridge Festival began 37 years ago, and was created by a group after the opening of the State Road Covered Bridge, Victor said.

“John Smolen was the county engineer at the time, and he was instrumental in getting this festival plan together,” she said.

Victor recommended first-time festival attendees get a map of the covered bridges.

“Also, if they do have a mobile phone, they can go to our website and they can type in what bridge they’re at and what bridge they’d like to go to, and it will give them directions on how to get to the next bridge,” Victor said.

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