WOOLWINE–The annual Virginia Covered Bridge Festival will be Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the site of the Jacks Creek Covered Bridge (the only existing covered bridge in Patrick County and one of seven in Virginia) and the former site of the Bob White Covered Bridge, which was washed away during a flood on Sept. 29, 2015.
The festival will include live music, horse and mule wagon rides, a duck race in the Smith River, historical demonstrations, children’s activities, and artisan, crafts and food vendors.
“It’s a small festival,” said Regena Handy, secretary of the Covered Bridge Festival Committee. “It’s oriented toward highlighting once-upon-a-time covered bridges. Since we lost one, we just have Jacks Creek (Covered Bridge).”
“I hope people will come. Covered bridges are few and far between,” Handy said.
She said it’s hard to estimate how many people might attend, because organizers don’t keep a head count, as, “We don’t charge a fee (for admission), and parking is free.”
Between both bridge sites, she said, “a high number (for anticipated attendance) might be 1,000 people throughout the day.”
A Virginia Department of Transportation website says: “In memory or imagination, covered bridges conjure up sights and sounds of days gone by. In Virginia, they began to dot the countryside nearly two centuries ago. Spanning rivers and streams, their number grew to the hundreds.”
It adds: “Eventually they gave way to their vulnerability to flood and fire, and to the technology that replaced the wooden peg with the metal bolt and the broadtimbers with narrow steel. By 1900, the overhead steel truss bridge had become the engineers’ design of choice.”
The website says relatively few covered bridges survived into the early years of the 1900s, most of them reflecting the evolution in design of three pioneers in bridge construction: Theodore Burr, who patented the Burr arch bridge in 1817; Ithiel Town, who patented the Town lattice design in 1835; and William Howe, who in 1840 patented a design that combined iron uprights with wooden supports.”
“Today in Virginia, only seven covered bridges still stand. Four have been preserved as landmarks and three are on private property,” the VDOT website says.
According to that website and a flier for a previous Covered Bridge Festival in Patrick County, Jack’s Creek Covered Bridge crosses the Smith River in Patrick County on Route 615 just west of Route 8 about two miles south of Woolwine. The 48-foot span built of oak was constructed in 1914 by Charles Vaughan of the Buffalo Ridge area. Walter Weaver of Woolwine designed it.
Regena Handy said Jacks Creek Bridge was used continuously until the 1960s.
“I can remember riding through that bridge with my parents,” she said. “There was no other bridge crossing the river in that area. It was the way to get back and forth.”
Jacks Creek Covered Bridge later was replaced with a modern bridge but is being retained.
Handy called it “a beauty for its age.”
According to a flier for a previous Covered Bridge Festival in Patrick County and to the Virginia Covered Bridge Festival Facebook page, the Bob White Covered Bridge was an 80-foot truss over the Smith River near Route 8, south of Woolwine, Walter Weaver designed and constructed the bridge. Built in 1921, it provided a connection between Route 8 and Smith River Church of the Brethren on the south side of Smith River.
According to directions on the Patrick County Tourism website, the site of Bob White Covered Bridge is 1028 Elamsville Road (Route 618) near Bob White Road (Route 708).
Debbie Spencer, a member of the Covered Bridge Festival Committee, said wagon rides will be offered for a small fee between the two bridge sites.
She also said, “Sons of Confederate Veterans (SCV) … will present a historical program near the Jacks Creek Bridge.”
According to information on the festival Facebook page: vendors registered thus far are: Color Street vendor handmade jewelry, handbags and gift items; Paparazzi jewelry; Patterns of Life Book ; handmade bath products, bath bombs, sugar scrubs, etc.; handmade articles from yarn and yarn spinning demonstration; jewelry vendor; woodcrafts; Yard Blossoms craft of glass yard art; several local authors; Hyltonz food truck; popcorn vendor; Sons of Confederate Veterans; and information vendors.
The music lineup follows:
After the formal opening ceremony at 10 a.m. at the Bob White Covered Bridge site, Shelley Roberts will sing various gospel selections.
At 11:30 a.m., The Compton’s and friends will perform a bluegrass and bluegrass gospel show, including harmony vocals and instrumental selections.
At 12:30 p.m., Mountain Melodies band members Evadell and David Lyon accompanied by friends will perform. Selections attributed to the Carter Family and other bluegrass and gospel songs will be performed.
At 1:30 p.m. the Over the Hill Gang will perform a variety show of bluegrass and country. That group includes local musicians Doug Joyce and Junior Cassady and others.
Music will start at the Jacks Creek Bridge site under the big blue Star Pavilion at 11 a.m. Paula Dellenbeck will open the show, performing bluegrass and country songs.
Beginning at noon, Janet Turner, billed as a “true mountain singer,” will perform, backed by musician Mac Traynham.
Beginning at 1 p.m., the F.A.R.M. T.E.A.M. will perform country, blues and American songwriters music.
At 2 p.m., Charles Bowman and his acoustic band will perform vocals and instrumental numbers.
Sandra Belcher, Patrick County tourism director, described the event as a “wonderful festival” and “a beautiful venue.”
She added: “The Covered Bridge Festival is an event that is part of the Mountains of Music Week. This is a nine-day celebration of traditional music and culture that takes place June 8-16, 2018, in over forty communities throughout the Crooked Road Music Trail region of Southwest Virginia.”
Spencer said: “We would like to thank volunteers from the Smith River Rescue Squad, Woolwine Volunteer Fire Department, the Patrick County Tourism Office and Woolwine community citizens.”
Handy said this is the 14th Covered Bridge Festival in Patrick County.
She sees the event as a way “to promote the community and make people aware of the bridge and see what a beauty it is.”
She also said, “It’s a community gathering, and we hope to draw in tourists and other people from outside the area.”