The Traveling Quilter: 17th Annual AQS Show, Paducah KY
Reviewed by Lynn Holland
We gathered beneath the steps of the
Wal-Mart parking lot in a suburb of Atlanta, a gaggle of ladies and a
few men, waiting for the bus. Some wore beautiful handcrafted clothing,
but most of us were in standard-issue casual attire. The conversations
centered on children and jobs. There really weren’t many visible clues
to our identities or our important destination: we were quilters on the
way to the AQS Show at Paducah. Many of us had taken
this trip last year, when we drove up and back in one day. Since
this required twelve hours of road time and many concomitant aches and
pains, we were thrilled that there would be an overnight stop on the way
up to allow us a good night’s rest.
We checked in, were given our
“trip number” to remember for roll calls, and finally boarded the
slightly tardy bus. All the husbands (except mine, who went along) said
goodbye, many of them shaking their heads slightly at the incredible
allure of this quilting stuff. Shortly into the trip, we discovered that
we were lucky to be on the road at all: One hour before scheduled
departure, the sponsoring quilt shop had gotten a call saying that the
original bus and driver were unavailable, and the only other driver
couldn’t find day care for his preschooler! After several nail-biting
minutes for Pat, the head honcho for this trip, the bus company managed
to work things out, and the crisis was averted.
four-hour drive to Nashville was broken up by talking, doing handwork,
and dozing. One group of long-time friends played serious bridge in the
back of the bus, and our driver Eric popped the movie Stepmom in
the VCR. Just as the final credits ended, we pulled off the freeway at
Opryland and into the hotel where we would stay for the night. Before we
disembarked, we sorted out the objects that had rolled away during the
trip: still missing was a red spongy apple. We had found a nearly
finished spool of Metrosene that no one claimed, and there was a box of
Kleenex without an owner. “It came with the movie,” someone quipped.
Then Pat was back with our keys, and we were on our own until Friday at
That evening we ventured via shuttle
to the Opryland Hotel, a spectacular complex which can only be described
as part Disney World, part Riverwalk and part Mall of America. There are
gorgeous gardens in the Delta area, complete with a river ride,
restaurants and shops. And all of this is indoors! Should all this still
not meet your needs, next door is a huge outlet mall. This was a little
overwhelming for us, since we were tired and not in the mood for a fancy
dinner or serious shopping. Too impatient for the shuttle and needing
exercise after sitting all that time on the bus, we walked back to our
hotel and had dinner there.
The next morning the excitement was
evident. Even at 7:30, some of the women were having an impromptu show
and tell of the goodies they purchased at Opryland Mills, the mall
adjacent to the Opryland Hotel. Numerical roll call was taken, the last
stragglers located and loaded, and we were off. As City Slickers II
played on the VCR, the bus passed through Tennessee and into Kentucky.
Some die-hards tried to work on fabulous appliqué projects; others gave
up trying to concentrate and just watched the movie. A quilter went up
and down the aisles, trying to locate a class sign-up list that had been
circulated earlier. “Twisted Bargello class?
Twisted Bargello class?” she queried.
At last we arrived in Paducah. Driving into town, we saw folks lined up to get into the Kiwanis (or was it Rotary?) sponsored antique quilt show, an adjunct display in town. There were signs of the Quilt Festival everywhere: banners proclaiming Paducah as “Quilt City, USA,” churches with huge signs advertising quilters’ lunches and dinners, and tons of yard sales with quilts in them. Now everyone on the bus was excited.
The bus swing into the parking area,
and we all jumped off. Our first stop was the mobile post office in
front of the “Big E,” as the fabled Executive Inn is known. There we
bought the official souvenir post card with a huge postmark, and
dutifully addressed it to my parents. (Hi, Mom.) Then it was into the
real deal: the AQS show.
entry area showcases Paducah and Kentucky. I think every county and
tourist attraction in the western half of the state sent a brochure for
the information tables, where friendly locals handed out plastic tote
bags and restaurant maps. We stopped to buy a show program and to gawk
at Yvonne Porcella who was sitting at a table just inside the front door
at a “meet the artist” feature. Making our way through the sea of
people (and it was just a half hour after opening), we went into
the first exhibit area. This was already, for want of better
description, packed. However, we could see the quilts from a distance,
and this was what we had come to do. Working our way through the crowds,
we remembered why we wanted to come back. The quilts are truly amazing
and it’s almost an honor to be in the same room with them, even if you
are there with a lot of other people, too.
As was the case last year, many of
the entries were from Japanese quilters, though we didn’t see as many
Japanese attendees as we had previously. The “Timeless Treasures Hand
Workmanship Award” went to Keiko Miyauchi of Nagano, Japan, who
entered a gorgeous appliqué medallion entitled “Blue Earth Filled with
Water and Flowers.” Bernina’s award for best machine work went to
Vickie Hallmark of Austin, Texas, for “Enlightenment,” an
eye-popping psychedelic piece that was part Amish, part mandala. The
best wall quilt came from Inge Mardal or Brussels, Belgium, a realistic
beach scene called “It’s Not Summer Yet.” Hancock’s of Paducah
sponsored the “Best of Show,” which was a breath-taking rendering of
Celtic designs from the Irish Book of Kells by Zena Thorpe of
Chatsworth, California. It is entitled, appropriately, “Magnum
Opus.” These quilts can all be seen, along with a complete list of
winners, at the AQS website at http://www.aqsquilt.com/17.shtml.
down the aisles, we bumped into a lot of people. Literally. “Excuse
me” and “I’m sorry” became the greetings of the day, and
everyone seemed to make the best of the situation, with minimal
grumbling. The lady with a twin stroller was certainly not Ms.
Popularity due to the wide load she was driving, but then neither was I
with my rolling carry-all. But in a show this busy, there are no
strangers. At the end of the second aisle, a PreK
little girl tugged at me and said “Watch”, whereupon she
stomped her foot three times to display her new light-up sandals. She
made my day. We stopped to say hello to all the people at Electric
Quilt, but didn’t linger long because their booth was so busy. Some
vendors were conducting make and take mini-sessions. I stopped to check
out someone hand-coloring lace appliqués with fabric dyes and also a
fabric marbling set-up.
When the crush of the show wore us
down a bit, we ventured to the pool atrium area, which was sunny and
roomy and full of vendors. There I bought some crazy-quilt scraps and a
new goatskin thimble. Then it was on to the pool annex, for more
vendors. I visited the demo of the
QuiltCut, even though I own one. Many
of the vendors were set up in sort of mini-stores, among them St.
Theresa’s Treasure Trove, with all of its exotic fabrics and
embellishments. I admired the redwork patterns at Lace Tales, but wound
up buying only another
rolling carry-all. Of course, I stopped to ogle all the massive long-arm
machines, knowing full well that they are out of my league. The annex
got a little oppressive (after I had visited all the vendors), so we
escaped out an open door and went out to the river.
On the river, the locals had an arts
and crafts market. Many charities had food and goodies, offering some
respite from the heavy activity at the convention center. Since it was a
sunny hot day, we had some excellent iced tea and wandered through the
market along the river. That led us to the Quilt Museum where we checked
out the gift shop and the children’s block contest exhibit.
For lunch, a friend who lives in
Paducah picked us up and took us away from the show area to a wonderful
place called Flamingo Row, where we had a Flamingo bread stuffed with
artichokes, olives and provolone. After chatting about what life in
Paducah is like for the other 360 days of the year, she gave us a quick
tour of the town, including the high school where she works. Trivia
fact: school is in session during Quilt Festival.
enjoyed the break , but WE were here for the show and as much as we
would have liked to stay and visit, we had limited time, so she dropped us off at the museum. From
there we walked into town, checking out all the great stuff set up on
the sidewalk and everywhere. Almost every store had fabric for sale,
much of it vintage. There were tons of old orphan blocks, many just $1
per block. I lingered over a set of 24 6” grandmother’s fans done in
authentic 30’s prints, but managed to move on without them. We
wondered where a dented lard can full of fabric had come from, and later
regretted not making an offer on the whole thing. Many of the
storefronts that are not occupied year-round had been leased by
quilt-related businesses, who had set up shop just for the occasion.
Several sidewalk sale tables of “miracle cloths” dotted the main
drag, and many restaurants were doing a brisk business. After completing
the downtown loop, we wandered past the gazebo where carriage rides
started and ended (we read about them on the side of a porta-potty) and
got a chance to wave to some quilters taking a ride. Local children
offered us a free “I Love Quilting” plate for our car, and we walked
back by the muraled walls that line the park by the river.
Back in the Big E lot, we noted some
clever vanity plates on the cars there. 2GR8BYS, SEW KNIT and JANEGO2
were some of our favorites. Just across the lot, we spied the
sign for Quilter’s Alley, one of the year-round quilt stores in the
area. A converted house, we were initially unimpressed, but once you
open the door, it’s a different story. Not surprisingly, there is a
very comprehensive selection of fabric and merchandise, and the place
was quite busy. On the back porch, MAQS Christmas ornaments were being
sold as a fundraiser, and the Rotarians (I think) were selling ice cream
treats as well.
With just a few more minutes to
spend in Paducah, we did another quick sweep of the big show and saw
everything we wanted to see one more time. We boarded the bus a few
minutes ahead of schedule, and waited for the rest of the crew to
arrive. At departure time, we were still missing a few quilters. Pat
went out to look for stragglers, and most of them arrived. On any trip,
someone is always last, and a round of applause broke out when the final
traveler climbed the bus steps. Ready for the grand finale’, we made
one more stop at the fabled Hancock's of Paducah.
Last year we were so tuckered out
that we couldn’t process the crush at Hancock's, and got back on the
bus after a few minutes of cognitive overload. But this year, we managed
to find the Alexander Henry “Dr. Zhivago” print that we stupidly
passed up on a previous TVQ venture and quickly scooped it up along with
a few other treasures. Hancock’s
cutting lines moved much faster this year, and there seemed to be more
people working the tables and check-out. Our cutter confided she had
been working since about 7 a.m., but that she was still having fun.
After dinner at the Captain D’s and a quick run through the local
Wal-Mart to check out the quilts hanging from the ceiling throughout the
store, we were back on the bus and homeward bound.
The ride home featured mostly
napping and showings of “The Cider House Rules” and “How to Make
an American Quilt” (don’t leave for Paducah without it). By three a.m.
were back in Atlanta, tired but happy.
In retrospect, we liked the trip
much better this year than last. Some of it was that we knew the drill
when we got off the bus, and had an idea how to approach the day. Some
of it was not being so tired to begin with, and more able to cope with a
very strenuous schedule. And some of it was just learning to like the
stuff that annoyed us last year.
I am sure you have heard that the show is really too large for the Executive Inn. This is true. However, the AQS folks have done pretty well in making it at least tolerable, and the city of Paducah works hard to keep everything on even keel. There are many off-site venues now, and the free shuttle can get you to them pretty speedily. (It is a small town, after all.) What is particularly impressive is that the town for the most part does not gouge festival goers. Parking at the Executive Inn itself is $2 for the day, and $5 at the adjacent lots. The carriage rides were just $3, water and drinks were the usual dollar, and the ice cream on the back porch of Quilter’s Alley was 50 cents. Knowing how prices inflate for such annual events in cities like Augusta and New Orleans, this is quite remarkable. The good news (I think) is that the Executive Inn is expanding, which should help future quilt shows. Can we make reservation for next year yet?
For more photos of the show, click here!
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