In Parke County for ten days out of the year, the population goes from around 25 thousand to more than 1 million.
Of course this is due to The Covered Bridge Festival, but when population increases at such a fast rate for such a small county, that can create some safety issues.
Debra Barnes owns Willow Property and is the Vice President of The Covered Bridge Association.
She says, in her years of being involved in the festival she has seen people come in from all over, “Hawaii, Australia, England, Canada, Alaska.”
With the festival growing more and more every year, it is estimated throughout the ten days the festival services, “million,” according to Barnes.
With the large crowds forced to overflow onto small town streets it causes a safety hazard and can result in accidents.
“We have had in the past where people just weren’t paying attention, both ways, either in the vehicle or as a pedestrian. It does happen from time to time but it is very minimal.” says Parke Co. Deputy Kyle Stonebraker.
It is obvious that deputies are urging drivers to pay attention when navigating the busy road ways, but drivers are not the only ones who need to be cautious.
“Pedestrians you are still walking on road ways, county road ways. So people are still going to be traveling with vehicles and you need to be mindful of that,” says Deputy Stonebraker.
To combat the inevitable issues of a large crowd in a small area, Parke County has help from other law enforcement agencies along with a positive attitude.
“Our eleven man department is on duty for the whole ten days of the festival, twelve hour shifts. But that is still not enough for everything that goes on but we make it work,” says Stonebraker.
Parking lots are also crowded during the festival.
So even when you are parking, law enforcement says that you not only need to look out for cars but people as well.
The festival will run through October 22nd, with some shops opening as early as 8 in the morning for breakfast. But some are also closing as early as 5 in the afternoon.