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Blessed are the piecemakers

By Staff | Sep 26, 2013

GLORIA BROMLEY, of Lake View, left, visited with Quilt-A-Fair visitors who wanted to learn more about the patriotic Quilts of Valor exhibit.

SAC CITY – The numbers alone are impressive with Sac County’s 2013 Quilt-A-Fair. Approximately 1,350 visitors from at least 47 Iowa counties and 17 states flocked to the two-day event in Sac City on Saturday and Sunday.

More than 72 tractors joined the Saturday tractor ride across the county, and more than 300 quilts were displayed at the Sac County Fairgrounds.

The numbers only tell part of the story, however. “The opportunity to showcase our rural communities, businesses, barn quilts and fairgrounds motivate us to produce the best possible quilt festival that we can,” said Sue Peyton, of Sac City, who helps coordinate the event. “It isn’t unusual for Quilt-A-Fair visitors to tell us our show is one of the best they’ve ever been to anywhere, and we’re honored to hear that.”

This year, visitors came from as far away as Alaska, California, Oregon and Texas. Eva Seal traveled to Sac City with two carloads of members of the Piecemakers Quilt Guild from Wayne, Neb.

“These quilts are works of art,” Seal said. “It’s just fun to be part of this, because every quilt tells a story.”

THIS DISTINCTIVE PINK tractor on the Quilt-A-Fair tractor ride belongs to Mark and Tami Auen, of Lake View, and promotes breast cancer awareness.

Quilts of Valor

One of the most impressive exhibits featured the Quilts of Valor. Stitched with love, prayers and healing thoughts, these patriotic quilts are tangible reminders of people’s gratitude and appreciation for the sacrifices of America’s service men and women and their families.

“I first heard about Quilts of Valor a year ago at a quilt show in Webster City and was inspired to get involved,” said Gloria Bromley, of Lake View, who has been part of the Quilt-a-Fair for more than six years.

Since 2003, the Quilts of Valor Foundation has become a national, grassroots community service effort that connects the homefront with America’s wounded warriors. As of July 2013, more than 87,302 Quilts of Valor had been presented to service members who have been injured physically or mentally by war.

Bromley, who has been quilting for more than 25 years, spent several months piecing and quilting her “American Valor” quilt for the 2013 Quilt-A-Fair. “Quilts of Valor are a wonderful way to say thank you to members of our military for their service and sacrifice to our country.”

Quilts tell a story

There were countless personal stories like this behind each quilt at the 2013 Quilt-A-Fair, which filled two buildings at the Sac County Fairgrounds. The inspiration for Ilene Cook’s “Day and Night” quilt is rooted in 90 years of history.

“On the spur of the moment, my father, Fritz, answered ‘yes’ when a friend asked if he’d like to go to America,” wrote Cook, of Schaller, who pinned a note to the fabric to detail the story of her 103-inch-by-116-inch bed quilt.

While Fritz built a new life in America, his heart ached for the friends and relatives he left behind in Germany whose homes and businesses were bombed during World War II.

“After the war, my father’s German family was desperate for even the basics of food and clothing,” Cook wrote. “My German mother and father sent flour, sugar, shoes and clothing in cloth feed sacks to help them, and the feed sacks also provided fabric to make clothing for the children.”

Years later, the people of Kulte, Germany, commissioned an oil painting of Cook’s parents’ ancestral home village in appreciation of their generosity. The painting was presented as a gift to the couple on their 25th wedding anniversary.

“These two naturalized Americans, so appreciative to live in the United States, could not forget the good people they left behind and were willing to share what little they had,” Cook wrote. “I’m constantly reminded how grateful I am to live in America.”

Stories like this highlight what’s great about rural Iowa, especially to Sac County natives like Cynthia Thiessen Hickok, an internationally renowned fiber artist who was featured during the 2013 Quilt-A-Fair. Hickok, who is best known for her intricate machine embroideries, was one of only five American fiber artists invited to exhibit their work in the International Triennial of Tapestry in Poland recently.

“The Quilt-A-Fair is such an impressive event, and it’s a thrill to be invited back to my hometown,” said Hickok, a 1955 Sac City High School graduate who lives in Houston, Texas.

Sense of accomplishment

As a festival of quilts and barns, the 2013 Quilt-A-Fair included something for everyone, including a classic tractor ride and show. The event started at the fairgrounds on Saturday in Sac City and followed a portion of the barn quilt trail, allowing riders to travel past 17 rural barn quilts. Quilt-A-Fair visitors were also encouraged to take a self-guided barn quilt tour around the county.

The success of the Quilt-A-Fair requires a team effort, said Peyton, who has been involved since the first event in 2007. Many people are surprised to learn that the Sac County Quilters planning group is not an organized quilt guild. It’s simply a group of more than 30 women across the county who want to promote tourism and economic development in the area.

“When we painted and installed all the Sac County barn quilts in 2005-2006, people all over Sac County worked together to create a rural art attraction, and we were all very proud of what we accomplished,” said Peyton, who encourages people to visit Sac County’s barn quilts. “The Quilt-A-Fair is truly an extension of that project.

“We continue to work collaboratively to make good things happen.”

For more information on the Barn Quilts of Sac County, log onto www.barnquilts.com.

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