Last quilt raffle set for 2014 Fair

On July 27, a 15-year tradition at the Hamilton County Fair will come to an end when the 4-H Foundation quilt raffle and quilt decor auction makes its final appearance at the Webster City event.

Since 1999, 4-H Foundation supporters and area quilters have teamed up to make a queen-sized quilt and home decor accessories which have annually raised over $1,000 for the local 4-H youth program, said Hamilton County ISU Extension 4-H Youth Development Coordinator Cheryll Entriken.

But this year, with the sale of the sponsoring business and the retirement of a major contributor, coordinators are calling it quits.

The tradition began in 1999 when Hamilton County Extension agent Bertha Shaw brainstormed with her friend Karen Johnson of The Gingerbread House, the fabric and home decor business located next door to the extension service office.

At that time, the fair’s textile exhibits were housed in the same building as the livestock, said Johnson.

“Bertha was upset and I was upset,” said Johnson.

So the two came up with a plan to raise funds to build a new venue.

Their plan was to enlist area quilters to design finished quilt blocks that would be made into a queen-sized quilt. The quilt would be auctioned off at the county fair and the proceeds would be used to construct a textile exhibit hall.

Shaw, Johnson and members of The Gingerbread House Quilt Club took five coordinating fabrics, cut them into 12-inch square panels and placed them into separate plastic bags with batting and backing material. Annually, The Gingerbread House has donated all the batting and an average of ten bolts of fabric to the project.

“We sold the bags for $2 each with the idea that the money would go to pay the machine quilter,” said Johnson, who noted all the quilters donated their talent, time and money. The completed blocks were displayed at the following year’s county fair with the public voting on “Viewers’ Choice,” said Entriken.

After the first fair concluded, the quilt blocks were delivered to Shaw’s sister, Lucinda Zieman. From those blocks, Zieman constructed a queen-sized quilt and quilted it.

But since the campaign was so popular among quilters, there were many additional blocks left over. So Zieman designed them into table runners, lap quilts, pillows, tote bags, basket tops and other home dcor accessories, explained Johnson.

It was at the 2000 Hamilton County Fair that the first completed quilt was displayed and raffled off. The home decor accessories were auctioned off after the quilt drawing.

While Shaw and Johnson were launching their fundraising effort, the 4-H Foundation was also working to solve the exhibit problem.

Having the textiles housed with the livestock was not an ideal situation, admitted Entriken.

“One year, it was so tremendously hot – on a daily basis the temperature was over 100 degrees – and no one was visiting the barns,” said Entriken. “Exhibits were falling apart from the heat.”

Another year, heavy rains resulted in a small stream flowing through the woodworking exhibits, said Entriken.

As the 4-H Foundation searched for options, it approached Bob Van Diest for help in updating the Van Diest Building at the fair grounds.

Through the generosity of Van Diest, the textile building was revamped and updated with air conditioning installed to make the building more compatible for textile displays, said Entriken.

With the cost of building a suitable venue for the textile exhibits eliminated, all the proceeds from the quilt project were dedicated solely to enriching the youth program, said Entriken.

“This was very profitable for the foundation,” said Entriken.

Over the years, the quilt proceeds have been used for a variety of 4-H projects including purchasing baby beef, swine products, partial scholarships, Junior 4-H camps, state conference expenses for members and awarding scholarships to graduating seniors, said Entriken.

The funds have also helped members with travel expenses to Washington, DC, Chicago and the Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha, she said.

“A lot of young people are impacted through 4-H,” said Entriken, who notes that the Hamilton County chapter has over 300 area youth enrolled in 4-H programs.

As the quilt tradition draws to a close, Entriken lauds the efforts of Karen Johnson and especially, Bertha Shaw.

“Bertha Shaw is the one we need to highlight,” said Entriken. “She spent hours and hours dedicated to this project and she had fun doing it.”