By Belinda M. Paschal
COVINGTON — With the Piqua Heritage Festival now a thing of the past, area residents looking for something to do this Labor Day weekend can set their sights on an event of a different kind.
The Fort Rowdy Gathering, which celebrates the history of the village of Covington, formerly took place in October. This year, the free event will be held this coming Saturday through Monday, Labor Day, in Covington Community Park.
“One of the biggest highlights is that we’ve changed weekends. Now, with it being Labor Day weekend, we have three days instead of two,” said Steve Wright, chairman for the Fort Rowdy Gathering.
“I think that will eliminate it being very cold like it can be in October,” Wright said, adding that he hopes warmer weather will draw an even larger crowd to the Gathering. “Also, with it being the last summer holiday and with kids going back to school, I think the general public is looking for one last thing to do for the summer.”
Now in its 22nd year, the Gathering indeed will offer plenty to do and see, beginning with a parade at 9:30 a.m. Saturday, that will step off from Walnut Street. Following the procession, opening ceremonies will include a prayer, singing of the national anthem and introductions to local dignitaries.
In addition to being a gathering of people, the event is a gathering of crafts, with a broad array of interests ranging from ceramics, painted wooden items and various foods to blacksmithing demonstrations, do-it-yourself sand art and period trades goods.
“There also will be some new food vendors and quite a few new craft demonstrations,” Wright said, listing taffy-pulling and making baby clothes among the new crafts.
No Gathering would be complete without the ever-popular encampment. Set on the wooded banks of the Stillwater River, the pre-1840s encampment is connected to Covington Community Park via the 209-foot-long Friendship Bridge. In addition, the camping area has been expanded to accommodate at least twice as many campers, Wright said.
Encampment activities will include a spear throw, bow shoot, lizard pull, flint and steel demonstrations, cooking contest, and rolling pin and skillet toss, along with many games and contests for children. Prizes will be awarded at camp meetings. A Sunday morning worship service will be held at the encampment stage.
On the festival side, visitors will be treated to a near-continuous lineup of live entertainment on the main stage. (For a full entertainment schedule, see the sidebar accompanying this story.)
And of course, there will be a veritable smorgasbord of savory selections provided by churches and organizations including St. Teresa Catholic Church, the Covington United Church of Christ, St. John’s Church and Young Life of Miami County.
There’s sure to be something to please every appetite, from apple dumplings (hurry, they sell out quickly!), pumpkin rolls, sugar waffles and funnel cakes to homemade chicken and noodles, tenderloins, whole hog sausage sandwiches and the famous “Rowdy Dog.” Also, the ice cream booth will feature Susie’s Big Dipper ice cream.
As a bonus this year, the Gathering will end with a bang — literally. After a special concert by Hotel California at 7 p.m. Monday, at Covington High School, there will be a fireworks display.
“It’s kind of an extra little thing we’re doing for the village,” Wright said.
To stay updated on details about the Gathering, visit www.fortrowdy.org.
Belinda M. Paschal can be reached at (937) 773-2721 or on Twitter @TheDailyCall.