COVINGTON — The annual Fort Rowdy Gathering was held this weekend at Covington Community Park with hundreds of campers, visitors, and vendors in attendance.
The three-day festival depicts both modern and historical settings, with eras separated by a 208-foot portable bridge, built each year for the festival, which spans the width of the Stillwater River.
The “modern day” side offered entertainment on the gathering’s main stage, food, arts and crafts, and a playground. Performances on the main stage took place throughout each day of the festival.
On the other side of the gathering, across the Friendship Bridge, visitors were transported back to the bygone years of the 1700s. Here, campers built makeshift homesteads reminiscent of the era, and vendors set up shop selling various items, such as jewelry, clothing, wooden tools and toys, and much more.
The “Encampment Stage” offered several performances each day, as well, which included several styles of folk music and bluegrass.
Concessions were provided on the “modern day” side by St. John’s Lutheran Church, American Kodokwan Institute, Susie’s Big Dipper, Boy Scout Troop No. 76, and Covington Christian Church.
For many attendees, the Fort Rowdy Gathering is a tradition eagerly anticipated all year long. Such is the case for a group of men who have made life-long friends while camping here.
The gang includes Scotty Helman of Bradford, Butch Weidner of Sidney, Earl Henry of Sidney, and Chris Decker of Piqua. There are 17 friends total, most of whom have been attending the gathering for over 20 years.
This year was a bit special, though, as they all sported matching blue shirts — reminiscent of the 1700s era, of course — which had been sewn by seamstress and fellow festival-goer Dawn Lowman, of Springfield.
Lowman, who has also attended the gathering for over 20 years, runs one of the vending tents called, “Sally’s Primitives.”
“Last year at camp, Decker came walking out of Dawn’s shop and holds up a sleeveless shirt,” Helman said.
As Weidner describes, given the time of year the gathering is held, the weather can be quite muggy and warm, all of which is amplified by the campers’ traditional 1700s garb.
“I was like, ‘Oh, cool, Dawn’s got sleeveless shirts,’” Helman continued. “But, Decker said he had gotten the last one.”
All 17 men said they decided to request sleeveless shirts of their own from Lowman — in the same color and style as Decker’s — to be worn at this year’s festival.
Rather than tell Decker they had also ordered one of his not-so-one-of-a-kind camp shirts, they decided to plan to wear them on the same day at this year’s gathering.
The men describe the laugh they had at witnessing Decker’s confusion as he saw all of his friends wearing the exact same shirt that he was convinced he had gotten the last of.
“Decker didn’t know anything about the shirts until today,” Helman said. “He came back to camp from running an errand, sat down for breakfast, and started looking around at everyone wearing his shirt.”
Weidner said the group not only shares the tradition of camping at the gathering each year, but also meet at his house annually.
“Helman and Decker went to school together, but we all met at camp,” Weidner said. “A bunch of us get together at my place the first week in November, cook out in the woods and have a get together, so it’s really a pretty tight-knit group; we’re like family.”
Helman said it was Decker who gave him his first chair — an unofficial custom — and sign of friendship — of camp at the gathering.
“That’s usually how it gets started,” Weidner said. “Someone invites you to stay at camp and gives you an article of clothing or a piece of camp furniture. That’s just become a tradition.”
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