COVINGTON — For fans of and newcomers to the Fort Rowdy Gathering, walking through Covington’s Community Park over the weekend offered the chance to take a step back in time.
The community tradition of a festival coupled with a Mountain Man encampment returned, marking a quarter of a century of celebrating the Ohio Frontier for locals and visitors.
“I want to welcome everyone to the 25th anniversary of the Fort Rowdy Gathering,” Annette Miller, chairman of the Fort Rowdy Gathering committee, said during the opening ceremonies.
A misty morning greeted campers and attendees at the annual Gathering. Miller honored the founders of the Fort Rowdy Gathering — approximately 20 local individuals — as well as current committee members. Two of the committee members, Steve Wright and Sam Woods, the latter of whom was also the chairman of the Mountain Man encampment, were both honored with decks of burnt playing cards.
Miller also announced the grand marshals of the Fort Rowdy Gathering, Ron and Judy Schultz, praising them for their contributions to the local schools.
“We feel that Ron and Judy Schultz have done amazing things for the youth here in Covington,” Miller said.
Before the end of the opening ceremonies, Miller encouraged attendees to study the history of Fort Rowdy, which goes back to the 1790s, when Gen. Anthony Wayne had a supply camp in the area. Wayne, nicknamed “Mad Anthony,” was a United States Army officer, serving between 1775-1783 and 1792-1796. According to local legend provided by the Fort Rowdy Gathering committee, the area supposedly derived the name “Rowdy” from the behavior of the troops and camp followers who gathered in the area.
Capt. George Buchanan, a member of a branch of the Ohio Militia, also occupied the area of Fort Rowdy in the early 1800s, building a stockade and a blockhouse to be used as a transfer point and depot.
While the weather did not start off ideal for the Gathering, it did not stop campers from overflowing from the campgrounds to the nearby field to set up tents.
Steven L. Baker and Brenda Baker of Christiansburg have been participating in similar Mountain Man encampments for over 40 years and have been coming to the Fort Rowdy Gathering on and off for approximately 20 years.
“We really enjoy this,” Brenda said. “We love the people, and we love the quiet.”
While it was peaceful camping experience, they added that they heard different types of bluegrass music through the night. Their campsite, like the others in the Mountain Man encampment, depicted a pre-Civil War Ohio Frontier lifestyle, particularly between 1790 and 1840.
“A lot of it we made,” said Steven, who works in a clock shop selling and repairing antique clocks, pointing out chairs and leather items he crafted. What they did not make, they often got from the trade blankets of campers at similar events. Campers wishing to sell items — such as cookware or even toys accurate to the time period — laid them out on a blanket in front of their tent.
Their clothes, like many of the campers, were accurate to what people on the frontier would have worn. Steven joked that when he leaves the Mountain Man encampment in his frontier clothes, “Everybody thinks I’m a nut.”
There was not too much need for them to leave the site, though, as they and many others came prepared to cook meals at their tents if they did not buy food from the concessions at the other end of the festival.
“About every day, we fix one large meal,” Steven said.
Together with the other campers, they developed a sense of community in their common interest in camping at Mountain Man encampments.
“This is nice. You can trust anybody,” Brenda said. “Everybody watches out for everybody. Everybody watches out for people’s kids … You know most of the people.”
While the people who participate in the encampments tend to be regulars, they said that they have noticed Fort Rowdy’s numbers increasing, causing their campsite and others to locate out in the nearby field, as oppposed to when the camps used to all be located in one area under the trees at the park.
“We’ve noticed since we started coming to Fort Rowdy, it’s growing more and more,” Brenda said.
Reach Sam Wildow at firstname.lastname@example.org or (937) 451-3336