Quilt barn trails draw tourism and engage communities

Quilt barn trails are opportunities for tourism, economic development and community building through partnerships, including in arts and culture, intown and rural businesses, and local government.

Quilt barnQuilt barn trails are increasingly popular. Combining a barn and a quilt pattern honors quilting and farming, two important aspects of American heritage. People build vacations around these trails -- an adventure of discovery and friendship. Travelers enjoy the countryside and add to local economies by shopping, eating and sleeping in nearby establishments along the way.

An increase in tourism dollars is not the only benefit of these trails. Communities involved in the barn quilt process come alive in new ways. A mix of businesses, barn owners, quilters, historians, preservationists, residents and local leaders work together to organize the trails. Community pride grows and unique aspects of community are showcased.

Michigan’s trails provide examples for communities and organizations that want to develop their own trail. Critical elements consistent across projects are:

  • Local champions (an individual or organization) who inspire and lead
  • A communitywide diverse group that organizes and coordinates
  • Shared information that informs and inspires engagement
  • Expertise in the arts, quiltmaking, funding and construction is identified and recruited
  • Organization – a home base for coordination
  • Funding assistance – from individual and business and grantmaking

Michigan’s trails have each found financial and contributed resources. Selecting sites varies from self-identification to a formal selection and application process. Michigan State University Extension is often tapped in the planning. Making and mounting quilt squares involves different methods for outdoor longevity. Learn from these projects --tour their trails, visit communities and be inspired.

Hoisting quilt onto barnThe Alcona County Quilt Trail began planning in 2007 with tourism as a goal. MSU students, faculty and MSU Extension staff provided research and identified information and resources. Eight sites appeared in 2008 and 15 more were added for the 2009 Alcona County 140th year festivities.

The Osceola Quilt Trail, affiliated with the Osceola League for the Arts and Humanities, brings communities together to make public art. Seventy-seven quilt squares are on barns, businesses, homes and public buildings in and surrounding Osceola County. This trail is recognized as a force in agritourism – bringing folks off the highways and through small towns to explore their places and communities.

The Old Mission Peninsula Quilt Barn Tour grew from a road trip vacation of friends to a neighborhood grassroots effort. Homeowners, farmers, and businessowners worked together to create another reason for a fall color tour. Owners funded their own quilt squares and worked together to paint and mount them. Traditional and unique designs depicting family history grace the 14 barns of this trail.

Patterns & Posies is in the lead for the name of the new Mason County Barn Quilt Trail that will also include a quilt garden at the fairgrounds and public sculpture along the way. This trail is growing from a year-long countywide cultural economic development planning process. The fairgrounds garden will be planted this spring and forecast the trail.


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