Quilters Unite at the 24th Annual Quilt Show in Paducah

comments (0) June 21st, 2008     

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MaryRay Mary Ray, contributor
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The whole city of Paducah celebrates the art of quilting each spring with the AQS Annual Quilt Show. (Used with permission: Paducah Travel/Flickrz)
Every April, Paducah, Kentucky, welcomes thousands of
quilters from all over the world to feast their eyes on some mind-blowing creations.
The whole city of Paducah celebrates the art of quilting each spring with the AQS Annual Quilt Show. (Used with permission: Paducah Travel/Flickrz)

The whole city of Paducah celebrates the art of quilting each spring with the AQS Annual Quilt Show. (Used with permission: Paducah Travel/Flickrz)

Photo: Courtesy of Paducah Travel/Flickrz

Ah, I'm finally back home in North Carolina after a whirlwind of quilting travel, and I want to share some of my adventures. One of the highlights of my trip was the American Quilter's Society Quilt Show in Paducah, Kentucky. I’ve been attending this show, off and on, for almost 20 years, and it just gets better and better. Of course, it’s all about viewing magnificent quilts, but there’s lots more—like shopping, taking classes, meeting celebrity quilters (as well as everyday quilters), and just spending some relaxing moments in this sweet little town on the banks of the Ohio River. When you need a rest from quilts, you can while away your time watching the barges and paddleboats on the river, stop by the Yeiser Art Center and other galleries in the historic Lowertown Arts District (home to Paducah’s Artist Relocation Program), poke around in antique shops, or enjoy some great meals in the many good restaurants that have sprouted up over the years.

One of the cool things about this show, I think, is that it’s not just in one place—there are venues all over town. And, it seems, the whole city gets on the bandwagon: Restaurants and shops display quilts in their windows, churches offer special lunches and dinners, and residents turn their homes into B&Bs (for a very small fee). And this is important to know if you plan to go because, although many new hotels have been built over the years, lodging is at a premium and you need to make reservations a year in advance in most cases. But the Paducah Visitor’s Bureau can hook you up with private citizens, and most everybody I know who has taken advantage of this service has enjoyed a pleasant stay.

It’s called the “American” Quilter’s Society Show and Contest, but quilts are entered from all over the world and attendees come in large groups from as far as Japan and Australia as well as several countries in Europe and just about every state in the Union. This year, 791 quilts were entered from 46 states and 13 other countries. The winners received a total of $100,000 in prize money. There are lots of categories and lots of opportunities for recognition since Honorable Mentions are awarded, too. The top prize—Best of Show—receives a purchase award of $20,000! (That means you have to relinquish your quilt if you accept the prize money, so it can take up residence at the Museum of the American Quilter, which is also in Paducah).

So let’s talk about the quilts. In a nutshell, they’re amazing—eye-popping, jaw-dropping, gorgeous! In fact, some are so well executed that you have to wonder if they’re really done by human hands! There’s something for everybody, too, whether you’re a complete traditionalist and like your quilts hand-pieced and hand-quilted in a recognizable pattern or prefer to break the rules and fuse the fabrics together, machine-quilt with a long-arm quilting machine, and embellish to death with paint, beads, and crystals. There are quilts that tell a story, quilts that link to the past, quilts that make a statement, and quilts that just look pretty—with one connecting thread: They’re all beautifully made. You can view some of the winning quilts at American Quilter.

I came away from this year’s show inspired—and a little intimidated as well. But, you know, quilting isn’t just for the experts, which is one of the things I love about. You can learn a lot from these show masterpieces, and if you dream of having your quilt in the winner’s circle, I say, “Go for it!” That’s a worthy goal. However, if you’re like me and are just happy to finish a quilt, well, consider yourself a winner, too! After all, the real prize is the process—the opportunity to create something with your own hands and have fun along the way.


posted in: winners, american quilter society shows, paducah

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