By Hannah Stumpf | Echo
Senior Nolan Sponseller said "I grew up in small town Indiana so I think that small town festivals have a special place in my heart". The festival to which Sponseller is referring to is this weekend's Cumberland Covered Bridge festival, though most know it simply as "Matthews Bridge Fest."
For many, this is a time for the Taylor and Grant County communities to come together. Roger Richards, current festival chairman of 26 years said that in the early 2000s the jazz ensemble used to play a gig, and since then, the Taylor community has broadened volunteers' experiences by recruiting through Community Outreach. These students have helped drive shuttles, picked up trash, served malts in the famous Lions Club trailer, stamped hands and completed a myriad of other activities.
Taylor volunteers impress Jim Slater, a local volunteer, with their effort and attitude.
"I was so impressed with their hard working kindness and good cheer," said Slater. "They would work at anything we asked them to do".
Volunteering in the Bridge Fest has its own rewards. For Sponseller, it was being able to support his dorm's housekeeper.
"Last year when I was volunteering with some other Third Westers, we were able to find Joyce Davis, part of the Wengatz cleaning staff, and purchase some items from the booth she was in for her church."
Davis was happy to introduce her church members to the residents that she has established relationships with. Sponseller and his friends were able to purchase baked goods that she had made.
For many in the community, it reminds them of loved ones they have lost. Slater joined because he wanted to spend time with his uncle Doyte Kibbey - who recently passed away at 101 - by working together in the Lions Club's frosted malt trailer. Richards' father was involved in the Bridge Fest back in 1971, as well as the Lions Club, so Richards grew up in that environment.
The first time at such a significant local event may be daunting. Luckily, Richards, Sponseller and Slater have some tips to share. Arriving early to visit all of the vendors and to secure a seat at the entertainment pavilion is important as well as wearing comfortable clothes and shoes appropriate for the weather, as most of the festival is held outdoors.
"I would just say to have fun with where you're at and who you are with. It may seem like a small task, but you really are making a difference," said Sponseller.
New features at the Bridge Fest this year include 20 dollar helicopter rides, an American Bikers Aimed Toward Education (ABATE) demonstration on motorcycle safety for children, a WWII veteran's discussion and book promotion and more craft vendors.
Of course, festival is almost synonymous with food, so check out the beef and noodles at the United Methodist tent, snag a soft pretzel or tenderloin and of course, a Lions Club malt.
For more information regarding the festival, contact the Community Outreach office or the Matthews Covered Bridge Festival Facebook page. Student Announcements also has contact information. Still on the fence? "Embrace that experience and participate in the learning process," said Sponseller. "There are all kinds of nice people that attend the CBF," said Richards.