July 18, 2008

Over the past two or three years, large quilt blocks have begun to blanket the barns of Kentucky and many surrounding states. With more than 300 barns now decorated in the state, the movement is difficult to ignore, and now 4H Youths are getting involved.

When Tammy Reams, University of Kentucky 4H Youth development program assistant in Boone County, saw a story in a recent issue of the UK College of Agriculture's magazine about quilt blocks on barns in Madison County, the wheels started turning in her head, and she knew she wanted 4-H'ers to get involved.

"It's really a matter of community service," she said. "We try to instill that value in the children in all our programs. This is a team project that supports agritourism in our county, and it helps the kids understand how they can impact that."

Nine 4-H'ers gathered recently at the Boone County Cooperative Extension Service office for a week-long project painting an Iowa Star quilt block on an 8-foot -by-8-foot board. The block will hang at the county's fairgrounds in time for the 2008 Boone County Fair.

Reams wanted to incorporate the 4-H logo in the block, so she added the clover in the center and used bright colors to draw attention to the design.

Current Past President of the Florence Women's Club Joyce Foley started off the week of painting with a discussion about the history of barn board quilts in Boone County. She said 19 barns in the county currently boast the quilt boards, with two or three more nearing completion. Foley said the women's club took an active role in enlarging the quilt trail because they feel it's important to preserve their heritage "one barn at a time."

"We [also] wanted to involve children, and we wanted to display public art," she said. "We're really hoping to get some future quilters as well. We've been quilting in Boone County for generations, and we hope these students won't think it's too old fashioned, and maybe they'll become quilters."

Foley may get her wish. 4-H'er Dominique Campbell, a high school freshman this fall, participated in the quilt board painting. She said the project has spurred an interest in quilting.

"I've never really done quilting, but it sounds interesting," she said. "I love how it's unusual and not every kid around here gets to do one."

Campbell worked on the painting project with fellow 4-H'ers Cassidy Cupps, Abigail Gambrell, Emily Gambrell, Lauren Hitzfield, Christina Shuffett and Katelyn Trapp.

Boone County 4H Youth Development Extension Agent Christy Eastwood was supportive of Reams in the project. She believes it's much more than a simple hands-on, community service project.

"It's good for them to be a part of something like this," she said. "They'll be able to drive by it in several years and say ‘hey, I did that project.'"

Reams said other benefits of the project include exposure to local culture, application of quilt making to science, math, language arts and history and the preservation and care of quilts.

The Boone County Fair Board will help the youths hang the quilt board in a prominent place on the Boone County Fairgrounds before the fair in August.

Reams and Eastwood said they hope this project encourages other 4-H groups in the state to paint their own barn board quilt blocks and serve their community's agritourism efforts.