PADUCAH — The city of Paducah is gearing up for the town to double in size for a week as tourists come in to town for the American Quilter’s Society QuiltWeek, which starts today and runs through Saturday.
AQS members were setting up quilts inside of the Paducah-McCracken County Convention Center last Friday, preparing the quilts to be judged over the weekend. A jury will survey 402 quilts that were sent to the AQS headquarters in Paducah and select the “Best in Show” quilts from the quilt selection, and award winners were announced on Tuesday.
Bonnie Browning, AQS executive show director, said the 402 quilts were submitted from artists in 43 states and 15 countries after all of the quilts passed a first stage of judging. Normally, the quilts cannot be more than three years old, but because there were no QuiltWeek in Paducah in 2020 and 2021, the maximum age for quilts in this year’s contest is five years.
Browning said AQS is excited to welcome quilters and quilt enthusiasts from around the globe into Paducah for the first AQS QuiltWeek in Paducah in over two years.
“The quilters are really, really excited,” Browning said. “This is on everybody’s bucket list, is they want to go to show in Paducah.”
Each QuiltWeek features workshops from renowned quilters to teach some of their tricks of the trade to other quilters. Browning said while workshops and classes every QuiltWeek are well attended, this year’s anticipated attendance for workshops and classes is better than usual. As of last Thursday, there were only two classes with seats remaining, Browning said.
Mary Hammond, executive director of the Paducah Convention & Visitors Bureau, said quilters flock to Paducah to hone their skills in quilting workshops, restock on fabric, test new models of sewing machines and meet old and new friends that share their love of quilting.
“I would liken the camaraderie among quilters to a sisterhood of fiber artists ready to stretch their creative wings. We hope they are motivated by the spirit of our UNESCO Creative City,” Hammond said.
Browning said that while AQS was unable to host QuiltWeek in 2020 and 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the quilting organization was still able to stay in touch with quilters.
Many people bought simple sewing machines to sew masks during the first few months of the pandemic, and Browning said AQS came up with the idea of bringing quilting to people who were looking for more uses out of their new sewing machines. AQS produced several sponsored basic tutorial videos to reach out to new quilters. Browning said the tutorial videos have over 400,000 views.
Other Paducah organizations are also preparing for the influx of tourists coming to town this week. Matt Collinsworth, CEO of the National Quilt Museum, said the museum had over 8,000 visitors during the 2019 spring QuiltWeek, and is planning for similar or larger numbers during this year’s QuiltWeek. Collinsworth assumed the CEO mantle at the National Quilt Museum last July.
Collinsworth said that the museum staff has planned events during QuiltWeek including an auction, artist receptions and visits, and book signing. This year, the National Quilt Museum has also renovated the lobby, upgraded restroom fixtures and enhanced its gift shop and software systems, Collinsworth said.
The museum is also extending hours during QuiltWeek, opening from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Wednesday and Thursday, 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Friday and 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday. Collinsworth said the museum is also offering a discount on tickets and said admission to the museum is $10 per ticket all week.
“We want to make sure that everyone who visits Paducah next week has a great time,” Collinsworth added.
Browning said she spoke with a woman this past week who was finally able to get a hotel room to visit during QuiltWeek, but because hotels throughout Paducah are booked up, the woman is staying at a hotel 30 miles away.
“They’re willing to do that so they can come and experience Paducah,” she said.
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