PADUCAH, Ky -- In its 20 years of existence, the Paducah-based American Quilter's Society has helped to elevate the status of quilts from something associated with bedding into an art form. In the process, the town has turned into a quilting Mecca.
Starting today, that art form will be celebrated with the 20th anniversary of the American Quilter's Society Quilt Show and Contest.
The society was formed in 1984 by quilt enthusiasts Bill and Meredith Schroeder to promote quilting as an art form. The first show and contest was held a year later.
Since its inception, the society has seen its membership grow from 1,500 to more than 50,000. It extends across the nation and overseas.
When the first society show was held in 1985, the big prize winner received $10,000, something show director Connie Browning said was unheard of at that time.
"The Schroeders put a value on quilts that wasn't there before," Browning said.
This year, the big winner gets $20,000.
About 35,000 are expected to show up at the event, making it the second largest quilting show in America. The largest quilt show is the International Quilt Festival in Houston, Texas.
With the number of people it brings into town and the money those people will spend, "it has a huge impact on downtown Paducah," Browning said.
For those in attendance, the show offers quilts on display, quilting workshops and seminars, as well as a merchant mall made up of over 300 vendors selling quilt-related items.
Some of the week's highlights include a quilt auction at 7 p.m. Thursday and the closing celebration, Downtown After Dinner, at 7 p.m. Saturday.
Saturday is also Community Day, where from 3 to 5 p.m. residents of Paducah and McCracken County are admitted to the show free.
There were 425 quilters competing in this year's contest for the $100,000 in prize money being given away.
Winners were announced Tuesday evening.
The Hancock's of Paducah best of show award went to Linda Roy's "Spice of Life" quilt. The society's hand workmanship award went to Jane Holihan for "Victorian Elegance," while the machine workmanship award went to Sue Nickels and Pat Holly for "The Space Quilt." The longarm machine workmanship award went to Claudiea Clark Myers and Marilyn Badger for "Sparkle Plenty."
A full list winners, and there are a lot more, can be found at www.aqsshows.com/show/paducah/paducah.cf....
This best of show quilt will be included in the permanent collection of the Museum of the American Quilter's Society, also in Paducah.
The museum opened its doors in 1991 and has quilts both from the Schroeders and from past shows that are exhibited on a rotating basis. The museum's collection now holds almost 200 quilts.
"It acts as a repository for the award winners," said the museum's director, Susan Talbert. "The idea was that people all year long can look at award-wining quilts."
In addition to the main exhibit hall, where the quilts on display are up for six months, the museum has two smaller exhibit rooms where new quilt exhibits are on display about every three months.
"There are a lot of people within 500 miles who come about twice a year," Talbert said of the museum visitors. She said the museum also gets visitors "from all over the country" and some from other countries.
"It's really a worldwide phenomenon," Talbert said of quilting.
The museum brings up to 50,000 a year to Paducah, Browning said. Part of the reason, she said is because "we have some of the best quilts from all over the world," on display.
To celebrate the organization's anniversary, the museum is holding a 20th anniversary exhibition, "Prize-Winning Quilters and Their Quilts."
The exhibit opened March 27 and continues until July 31.
It features the society's best of show quilts from the past 20 years and either a new or favorite quilt from each of the past award winners.
More information about the society's Quilt Show and Contest can be found at www.aqsquilt.com.
335-6611, extension 182