Dinner on the Bridge draws 240 people to Medora

MEDORA — It wasn’t that many years ago that one of Jackson County’s most famous landmarks drew visitors from every state and 39 countries in a one-year period.

In fact, the number of visitors to the Medora Covered Bridge, the longest historic covered bridge in the country, continues to draw as many as 20,000 visitors a year.

And sometimes, visitors from other states stop by to see the bridge and find their way back for the annual Dinner on the Bridge, held each year on the first Saturday of August, Nick Walden said.

That makes all of the work Walden and many others put into making the bridge good throughout the way and planning and preparing for the dinner worth it.

“Some days, Morris hangs out and gives people tours,” Walden said of Morris Tippin, who put together Friends of the Medora Covered Bridge. That organization came together after the 434-foot bridge, built in 1875, spans the East Fork White River and underwent a renovation project in 2011.

Walden said he also spends time at the bridge.

“I even enjoy picking up the trash, making the place look good,” Walden said. “It’s beautiful. The scenery is nice. The bridge is nice. The history is amazing. The pinnacle of that is seeing the tourists come out from all over the world coming out here and being in awe of it.”

Attendance for this year’s dinner, the 11th, was down a little perhaps because of gas prices and everything else going on, Tippin said.

“We have about 240,” he said.

Tippin said he never thought the dinner would grow to where it is today.

“Not when we started,” he said. “The first year, we had 135. We had three years when we had 300.”

Members of the friends organization keep the grass mowed and pick up the trash every day, Tippin said. The dinner has helped fund a security system and power to the bridge.

Members of the organization, such as Melinda Hypes, who is originally from Medora, and her husband, Morris Hypes of Campbellsburg, also come out to help with the dinner.

“We have been a part of the friends group ever since its inception,” she said.

The Hypes met Tippin, who was putting together the group to help save the bridge for the future.

“So we wanted to be a part of it,” Melinda said.

On Saturday, she was taking tickets at the west end of the bridge. The Hypes also help out when the organization sets up a booth at local festivals and sells T-shirts and souvenirs made from the lumber from the bridge that has been painted by Walden.

Walden, who grew up in Medora and still lives there, also has been involved with the friends organization from the beginning.

“Morris was collecting lumber and looking for an artist,” he said.

During this year’s dinner, held Saturday, a group of women from south central Indiana were first-time attendees of the dinner.

“It’s my mom’s birthday, and we go out every month for dinner,” Monica Grider of Columbus said. “We wanted to do something different. One of the members told about this. She’d heard about it. We thought, ‘Oh my gosh! This sounded so cool.’ We like to think outside the box, so we came out and thought we would check it out.”

Other members of the group attending the dinner were Angela Walker of Columbus, Jamie Hughey of Florida, Mary Smith of Columbus, Pam Spurlock from Beech Grove, Diana Wells from Brownstown, Patsy Bennett of Columbus and Cindy Galbraith of Seymour.

Walker said eating dinner on the bridge was not too bad.

“We’ve had dinner in a barn,” she said. “We’re good with it.”

The group wore red hats, except those who have birthdays wore purple hats.

The music was provided by Vince and Donna Griffin.

“These people are amazing. They are from Floyds Knobs. They refuse to take money,” Walden said.

“This is their third or fourth year,” he said. “I met them at the bridge. We became friends, and they are musicians. The Sure Shot Turkey Dusters that used to play out here couldn’t do it anymore, so I got them to do it, and I could not be happier.”

Jerry and Amber Henson, who also are musicians, run the sound system for the dinner each year, Walden said.

“They play a few songs, too,” he said of the Hensons.

“We have a lot of support,” Walden said.

The dinner also features a drawing for items donated by local businesses and an ironing board from parts of the bridge that wasn’t used during the renovation project. Proceeds go to Friends of the Medora Covered Bridge.

The bridge, built by Joseph J. Daniels of Rockville, was closed to traffic in 1972 but remains open to pedestrians and bicyclists today. The Burr truss design bridge took nine months to build and cost $18,142. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2007.