Barn quilt trail to be discussed in public meeting

Some Dexter, Kan., students were commissioned earlier this year to paint a 6 foot barn quilt for the Little House on the Prairie barn near Independence, Kan. The pattern used, Doves in the Window, was selected because Laura Ingalls Wilder is believed to have quilted that pattern for her hope chest. (Provided photo)

ENID, Okla. — A barn quilt trail in Garfield County will be the focus of a Dec. 19 public meeting.

The informational startup meeting will be held at 11 a.m. in the Great Plains Room at the Public Library of Enid and Garfield County. 

"As we progress, then we'll be putting together a more formal plan of how we want to do this in Garfield County," Garfield County OSU Extension Center Family and Consumer Science Extension Educator Lesa Rauh said.

More than 20 years ago, barn quilts were created by a woman who wanted to honor her family's heritage, story and love of quilts. She painted a "huge" quilt square on her family barn, she said.

"It attracted attention and other people started doing it, and it has kind of become a movement around the country. There are barn quilt trails that have become, basically, a tourist destination for people, whether they quilt, they love art, they love rural agricultural settings. They are all over the country, and we are one of the last 15 states to get a barn quilt trail," Rauh said, adding there are trails in Canada as well.

OSU Extension will provide the oversight and is working with Oklahoma Agritourism, TravelOK, Red Carpet Country and Visit Enid to create the Garfield County trail, she said.

"We're all going to be working together, but it's going to be primarily a grassroots volunteer movement to create our barn quilt trail," Rauh said. 

Other counties throughout the state are also in the process of working on a trail, she said. Ellis, Woodward and Dewey counties have already gotten together and started trails.

"We're definitely all working together," Rauh said. "Part of that is teaching people how to paint barn quilts, finding locations." 

There can be urban barn quilts that may be 1 foot by 1 foot hanging on someone's garden fence, on an outbuilding or hanging from a mailbox. Out into the country, the quilts may be hanging on a gate, or on a barn, and they may be as large as 8 feet by 8 feet, she said.

"They're just a colorful expression of someone's love of quilting. It may be a replica of a historic quilt square that may be part of an Oklahoma Centennial Farm that the quilt has been handed down through generations. It may be symbolic," Rauh said. 

A good aspect about the trail is it brings economic development and tourism dollars to the community, she said.

"It gives people who are coming through, or coming for an event, a reason to stay an extra day to get out into our rural communities and maybe have lunch in Garber, or buy gas in Kremlin," Rauh said. "Because they are driving through looking at the barn quilts, it's going to help bring some added income to our communities, as well as some beauty."

Barn quilts have had a substantial impact on the rural town of Dexter, Kan., Cowley First-Cowley County Economic Development Administrative Assistant Deb Firebaugh said.

"Youth are engaged in the community and really buy into the project as they select patterns, colors and locations for the quilts. Residents report a boon in visitors driving slowly up and down the side streets looking for the quilts, and often stopping to visit and compliment the community and the works of art," she said. "Local businesses such as Henry's Candy Factory and Grouse Valley Grill have benefited by the tour groups and individuals frequenting their businesses that otherwise would not be in town.

"Dexter is also known for amazing hunting and even the hunters enjoy the quilts and often want to buy one to take back home. It has also boosted the pride of the small community."

It all began in 2013, when Cowley County Economic Development and the local convention and visitors bureaus established a goal for 12 barn quilts to be hung on barns as part of the Flint Hills Quilt Trail that was started the year before. The trail encompasses 22 Kansas counties, Firebaugh said.

At the time, Cowley County — in which Dexter is located — had just one barn quilt. In four years, the number of quilts on the county leg of the trail grew to 160 at 126 locations, and much of the success is due to rural school districts and communities, she said.

Dexter, population 278, has 53 of those quilts, painted mainly by Dexter High School students, Firebaugh said.

Locations

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