A few pages out of a new book, Barn Quilts and the American Quilt Trail Movement by Suzi Parron and Donna Sue Groves, published by Ohio University Press, honors the Alcona County Quilt Trail and Michigan State University’s role in its creation.
Donna Sue Groves started the quilt trail movement when she honored her mother with a quilt square painted on her Ohio barn. Her vision of an imaginary clothesline stretching across rural America connecting barns decorated with wooden quilt squares led to the American Quilt Trail Movement with registered quilt squares appearing on more than 3,000 barns along 100 driving trails.
In 2007, Wynne Wright, MSU professor, and Bonnie Wichtner-Zoia, MSU Extension educator, worked together to make the Alcona County Quilt Trail a reality. Dr. Wright taught a course in which students got involved in a community rural renewal project. A quilt trail would be a good fit. It would bring tourism into the community and teach local history as well.
Bonnie’s first step in getting the community involved was to acquire the help of Cindi Van Hurk of the Hollyhock Quilt Shoppe. Cindi became president of the project, forming a committee that provided the MSU students data about the community. The students diligently did their research and presented a feasibility study to the Alcona County committee. The students strived to help the community develop a sense of identity and get residents interested in local culture and history. The students’ study of quilt trails in other states helped this particular trail project avoid some of the problems other states’ projects experienced. Volunteers constructed, painted and installed the large wooden quilt squares on barns and other sites, basing designs on traditional quilt patterns often modified to reflect the history of the sites.
Since barns in the Alcona County Quilt Trail are scattered unevenly throughout the county, historic sites and other sites of interest along the trail help fill in the gaps. Residents have commented that there seems to be an increase in traffic at local businesses due to the quilt trail. It takes about four hours to view the quilt sites, making it likely that people will stop and spend money at local businesses.
Other counties in Michigan that have quilt trails are Osceola County and Grand Traverse County. In addition, my home county, Washington County, Iowa, has a quilt trail and was featured on Suzi Parron’s blog in 2009.
Read more about the Alcona County Quilt Trail at www.alconaquilttrail.com.
Read author Suzi Parron’s blog at americanquilttrail.blogspot.com.