WINTERSET, Iowa — Madison County’s covered bridges are the area’s main claim to fame around the world. The local love for the bridges helped connect the county in a different way over the weekend.

Thousands of people came to downtown Winterset for the Covered Bridge Festival, which was punctuated with a parade through town Sunday afternoon.

Madison County natives equate the parade to a family reunion.

“I’ve been in the parade countless times,” said Winterset native Kent Collins. “I’ve watched it all my life.”

“My sister and I grew up coming here when we were little,” said Jessica Garrison, who is also from Madison County. “This is the first time we’ve brought our boys. It was fun.”

The festival and parade provided an added spark of joy this year because of its contrast to the deadly EF-4 tornado that struck south of Winterset seven months ago.

“This is something that this year has a little bit of a different feel,” Collins said. “I don’t know what exactly it is, but it’s there.”