September 28, 2008

Quilts on Barns project near first-year conclusion

Quilt pieces readied for a Burlington Township barn

Criss-crossing the county -- from Haban Park in Racine to Waterford -- Quilts on Barns volunteers hung "quilts" on five barns Sunday.

The marathon began at 8 a.m. and wasn't finished until after 3 p.m., thanks to various challenges -- like soft dirt into which its borrowed bucket truck started sinking. But they persevered, and completed the task. There are now 14 barns with 8' x 8' painted quilts, one short of this year's goal. The final barn quilt will be hung Monday, and the official ribbon-cutting ceremony, party and quilt raffle will take place on Oct. 11.

Kathi Wilson interviewed by WGTD as barn quilt is hung at Haban Park

Sunday began with the relatively simple hanging of a quilt at Haban Park, on a storage barn overlooking the ballfields where scores of youngsters were playing (and supervised by the caretaker's rooster, who walked around imperiously). The quilt square is Lady of the Lake in blue and white. It was painted by the Monument Square Art Fair board of directors, and sponsored by the Racine County Public Works Department.

54-40 or Fight as seen from the highway

Then it was off to Bill and Betty Weis' barn, the heart of a 283-acre dairy operation with 125 head in Burlington Township. Hard to say how old the barn is; their farmhouse dates from 1906, but it replaced an earlier home constructed when the barn was built. Betty jokes that if it weren't for the hay and corn stuffing the barn it would fall over; Bill was hoping the plywood "quilt" helps hold the barn up. In any case, the long red barn received a colorful green, white and black square in the 54-40 or Fight pattern, painted by Main Gallery and sponsored by Johnson Bank.

What did they think of the barn after the quilt was hung? "It's finer than frog's hair," said Bill.

Ed Stone gives Amigo a treat as their barn is quilted

Next was Bonnie and Ed Stone's barn on Maple Road in Rochester. Their 199-acre farm was once home to 100 steers and the same number of pigs -- while Ed was also juggling a career as a CPA. Ed is now retired and the land is rented to hay, corn and soybean production. The barn is a spacious home for Amigo, a very smart donkey -- "he can open a rope knot with his teeth," says Ed, who adds that Amigo likes to eat apples and Oreo cookies. In this election season, I had to ask whether the donkey represented a political preference, but Ed recoiled in horror. "God no," he said. "I should have an elephant!" Turns out he's owned Amigo for about 10 years, after the animal repeatedly wandered over from his former owner's farm across the highway, and was finally formally adopted by the Stones.

Amigo's barn is now graced with a colorful Log Cabin quilt, painted by the Boy Scouts and sponsored by Accounting and Business Services.

Indian Trails pattern on a Norway sheep barn

From there, the volunteers drove to Tom and Diane Oberhart's 68-acre farm on Big Bend Road in Norway. Their home dates from 1878 and their barn is now home to six Suffolk sheep, who munched contentedly in the adjoining pasture as the barn quilt was hung. Their white barn received a dramatic blue and black pinwheel square in the Indian Trails pattern, painted by the Rainbow Quilt Guild and sponsored by the Racine County Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Wild Goose Chase at 22020 West Seven Mile Road

Sunday's final quilt was affixed to an old barn next to a new house belonging to Adrienne and Richard Kessler, set back from West 7 Mile Road. It proved the most difficult to hang, as the truck with the bucket that lifts volunteers and the quilt to the top to the barn kept sinking into soft sand. Its outriggers were finally braced with four-by-fours -- they quickly cracked -- and cement slabs and the job was completed with trepidation but without further incident. The grey barn now sports a red, white, green and black Wild Goose Chase square, painted by AOA Employees, sponsored by O & H Bakery.

The complete Quilts on Barns project will be officially unveiled on Oct. 11 with a 9 a.m. ribbon-cutting by County Executive Bill McReynolds at the Racine County Convention and Visitors' Bureau on Hwy 20 by I-94. (The ribbon will be around one of next year's barn quilts.) Maps with the locations of all 15 barn quilts will be available, and there will be a party from 4 to 6 p.m., with food, and the band Rusty Horses. Raffle tickets will be sold all day -- the prize is a quilt, of course: The Best of Rural Art, done by The Friends of Ozella. The raffle drawing will be held at 5:30 p.m.

Also, Racine artist Bob Anderson has created a pencil drawing collage of all 15 of this year's barn quilts; prints will be available.

Capping the event will be the hanging of a specially designed 4'x4' quilt pattern on the RCCVB building itself, a square combining the look of a Frank Lloyd Wright window with a Flying Geese pattern.

Another 30 barns will receive quilts over the next two years, as the project conceived by Kathi Wilson transforms the rural landscape.

Stories and pictures of the rest of this year's Quilts on Barns are HERE, HERE, HERE, HERE and HERE.

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