ROCKVILLE, Ind. (WTWO/WAWV)– It was nearly 60 years ago when James Millar first remembers taking part in the chicken noodle dinners during the Covered Bridge Festival.
“Originally, our whole purpose was to help the community,” he said. “We used to make the noodles ourselves, on the top floor of the old American Legion building.”
Spanning multiple generations– and two American Legion Post 48 buildings– a group of volunteers continue the tradition to this day.
And that includes Millar, who travels every year to keep the streak going.
“I actually have worked this just about since it started. I live in Clermont, Florida now, and I come back every year for 10 days to work this,” he said.
The organization is one of dozens of local vendors that help make the Covered Bridge Festival as popular as it is today. Jim Meece, who has been selling sassafras candy for over half a century at the event, said he always looks forward to seeing recurring customers.
“Seeing the same people coming back and they’re thrilled to see you, we’re thrilled to see them, you know you won’t see them again for another year but they’re going to be here, they’re going to come back,” he said.
He also said these events are great for organizations– like the American Legion– in their push to help the community.
“This really gives a great opportunity for our not-for-profits to do charitable things for the people who need it,” he said. “This is the one time in their lives, where most not-for-profits don’t have access like this, where they can make money and all of that money returns to the community, doing good things for people who need those good things.”
Millar said this is the biggest fundraiser the American Legion Post 48 has each year, and the money they receive helps them provide for veterans around the community.
And none of it would be possible without the support they’ve seen from festival goers going back decades.
“This is not on the square, which is where most the people come to visit and stop and look at everything. We’ve had, ever since we started this, to try and convince people to come south of the square and they have,” he said. “I think it says a great deal about the people that are from Parke County that they will help support the community.”
Both vendors hope to keep going for years to come. Millar said he plans to continue making the trip back to Indiana every year.
“As long as I’m healthy.”