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Barn Quilts + 4-H'ers make Iowa tourism grow

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

An example of a barn quilt, displayed at the iowa State Fair. Photo submitted.
AMES - Take Grandpa's barn, an 8' by 8' slab of plywood and mix in the can do spirit of an Iowa 4-H youth and you've got yourself a tourist attraction.

Barn quilts are going up all across Iowa, on barns, on community libraries, on garages, on any building big enough to hold the 4' by 4' or 8' by 8' creations. Some are even stand-alone signs welcoming tourists to town. It's all a part of the life skills learning offered through Iowa State University Extension's 4-H Youth Development program.

Barn quilt know-how spreads fast in the 10-to-18-age bracket of Iowans, and they're putting that knowledge and their can do spirit to work for Iowa tourism. Visitors to the 4-H Exhibits Building at the Iowa State Fair can see some fine examples the state's 4-H youth have created during the past year. To find specific displays, ask at the information booth inside the front entry.

The biggest star in the building belongs to Amanda Lage of Allamakee County, who says her 8-pointed star in bright red and yellow on black will hang on her grandparents' refurbished barn in Fayette County. Lage's blue ribbon entry shows off the art elements and principles that youth learn in 4-H. She credits the Fayette County Chamber of Commerce for providing information on building, painting and hanging barn quilts.

One large flying goose wings its way across the barn quilt entered by Nathan Eick of Bremer County. Fair goers also can see step-by-step photographs of Eick's original artwork and skilled, blue-ribbon workmanship in the Woodworking section of the building.

Courtney Hackett's grandmother will have a blue ribbon Log Cabin Block to display on her garage in Wayne County. Hackett, a 13-year-old member of the Washington Willing Workers, has the exhibit on display in the Home Improvement section of the building. She said she hopes her quilt gets the movement started in her county.

Albert City's Evan Balder already has a barn quilt project going in Buena Vista County. The 11-year-old worked through his 4-H club to offer an informational meeting and invited other clubs as well as business and community leaders. He applied for and received an Iowa Promise Grant to obtain funding for the initial quilt. Fair goers can learn more about the Buena Vista project by checking out Balder's exhibit in the Personal Development section of the building.

Once a barn-quilt project is up and running, 4-H'ers play many roles, serving as tour guides, photographers, Web site designers, even book authors. Sac City's Amy Peyton found out what it takes to organize copy and photos; work with a designer, editor, and printer; and obtain funding to pay for it all.

Peyton's book, Barn Quilts of Sac County, offers 64 pages of full-color barn, community and house quilts located throughout the county. Peyton chronicles the history of the local project as well as offers insights into each owner's selection of quilt pattern. The book is on sale at $15 in the building, with part of the proceeds going to the Iowa 4-H Foundation.

Visitors can see other barn quilt exhibits in the building including a pinwheel beauty by Chelsey Merchant of Benton County, and reports from the Kossuth County Achievers, Melissa Hartl of Jones County, Kirsten Weber of Ida County and the Montana Miners of Boone County. Many quilts from those exhibits will be displayed on buildings at local county fair grounds.

Supplies to create most barn quilts cost from $200 to $300. For more information about Iowa barn quilts, see www.extension.iastate.edu/emms/barns/.

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