Heritage Trail barn quilt event celebrates region’s history

Chronicle Media
Illinois 081716 barn quilts PHOTO 1

The Barn Quilt Heritage Trail is a selection of over a dozen area barns that display 8-feet by 8-feet painted plywood quilt squares on their property as a celebration of McLean County’s farming heritage and the talents of local quilters, artists and poets. (Photo courtesy of Bloomington/Normal Visitors Bureau)

The  Barn Quilt Heritage Trail of McLean County highlights the agricultural heritage of the county, along with the history, arts, Route 66, and quilting.

The opening event for 2016 is scheduled for Saturday, Aug. 27, celebrating 50 barn quilts installed in McLean County.

In your travels throughout rural McLean County, you may have noticed the decorative squares that resemble quilt blocks adorning barns and farm structures. Each of these pieces of art have a story behind them and are part of the larger McLean County Barn Quilt Heritage Trail.

A barn quilt is an 8×8 foot wooden structure, painted with designs reminiscent of geometrical quilt patterns — made unique by colors choice and design, and frequently incorporating imagery telling the story of their owner.

In 2012, a group of volunteers came together on a project incorporating arts and poetry to celebrate agriculture, the beautiful barns in the area, and the history of our farming communities.

What started as a small project in rural areas is now in its fifth year, and closing in on 50 quilts. Currently, most pieces are hung on private barns and other farm structures; however, barn quilts can also be found at local museums, the Corn Belters Baseball Stadium, the David Davis Mansion carriage barn, Funks Grove Maple Sirup barn, Ropp Cheese Shop, Rader’s Family Farms, and Sugar Grove Nature Center. Each barn quilt site, public or private, welcomes sightseers.

The David Davis Mansion Historic Site in Bloomington will host the Heritage Trail Barn Quilt event on Saturday. Aug 27. (Photo courtesy of Bloomington/Normal Visitors Bureau)

The David Davis Mansion Historic Site in Bloomington will host the Heritage Trail Barn Quilt event on Saturday. Aug 27. (Photo courtesy of Bloomington/Normal Visitors Bureau)

Twelve new quilts were created for the 2016 season. A tour book is available to provide travelers with a brief history of each site, plus a poem written by a local poet, for each quilt. Each year, an updated tour book is published and distributed at the opening events at the David Davis Mansion.

A map is included with detailed driving instructions, and committee members occasionally provide “step-on-guide” tours for bus groups. The route has proven to be a great opportunity to tourism dollars to smaller communities in McLean County.

Though similar quilt trails are growing in popularity in Illinois and surrounding states, the Barn Quilt Heritage Trail is the only trail in the United States that features poetry written about each installation.

Words on Quilts, original poems about McLean County quilts, are written by local published poets. This year’s poets include Kathleen Kirk, Peg Kirk, Ardis L. Stewart, M. Irene Taylor, and Bill Morgan, all affiliated with Illinois Voices Theatre. They will share those poems at 10:15 a.m.

An auction of 2-feet by 2-feet barn quilts will follow the poetry reading. Gordon Ropp, auctioneer and member of the quilt committee, will run the auction. Proceeds of the auction will go towards maintenance of structures and promotional materials.


WHAT:  Barn Quilt Heritage Trail 2016 opening event

WHEN: 10 a.m. on Saturday, Aug. 27

WHERE: David Davis Mansion Historic Site, 1000 Monroe Drive, Bloomington

ADMISSION: Free and coffee and donuts will be available.

For more information, call (309) 663-8306, or visit web.extension.illinois.edu/lmw/barnquilts.




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