Enjoying the Afternoon Exploring the Schoharie County Quilt Barn Trail

Sunday, September 5, 2021

 Much like a patchwork quilt, the inspiration that stirs and motivates me is made of many things.

                                                                            -Robert Reynolds

Whether it's inspiration I'm after or just an escape from the chaos of everyday life, I know I can find what I'm seeking in Schoharie County.  Usually it's the hills and valleys with views as far as the eye can see,  but yesterday it was the challenge of hunting down the beautiful quilts along the Schoharie County Quilt Trail that lured us to the beauty of Schoharie County.

The original idea of a quilt trail began with Donna Sue Groves in Adams County, Ohio. Donna was divorced and her mom widowed, so together they decided to purchase a non-working farm in Ohio. On the property was an old tobacco barn, and though Donna had a passion for old barns, this barn was very plain. Donna wondered how she might dress it up and quickly decided she would honor her mom and her mom's love of quilting by painting a quilt on the side of the barn. Well, as often happens, the daily responsibilities of life kept Donna from getting around to painting her quilt. One day a wise friend reminded Donna that her mom wasn't going to be around forever and that prompted Donna to share her idea with the Ohio Arts Council. And just like that, the idea of a quilt trail was born in 2001, and 20 painted quilts adorned the landscape in Adams County, Ohio. Since then the inspiration has spread and today over 7000 quilts grace barns and businesses all over the United States. It should be noted here that quilt blocks are not the same as Pennsylvania Dutch Hex signs.

The Schoharie County Quilt Barn Trail began after 2011, ten years after the the idea's inception in Ohio. Looking for a way to revitalize the area and bring tourism after Hurricane Irene ravaged Schoharie County damaging over 2000 homes, the idea of a quilt trail was born. Painted quilts, often representing family history and heritage, appear on homes, barns, and businesses all over the county. Unlike the cats of Catskill and owls of Coxsackie, the quilts are a permanent exhibit.   The first group of quilts  displayed in 2012 totaled 20, and the collection just keeps getting bigger from year to year.  A dedicated committee works behind the scenes to make this labor of love a continued success. I spent some time today chatting with Ginny Schaum, Committee Chair who explained the arduous process of getting a quilt created. First a business or individual presents a quilt block idea, sometimes an isolated block from a family quilt, or a design that represents a business. Quilt blocks must be a standard size, either 4' x 4' or 8' x 8' and must be displayed where they are easily visible to the public. The wood for the design is purchased at one of a few local hardware stores within the county. Also in keeping with the goal to help support local business, Benjamin Moore paint is purchased locally as well.  When the Schoharie Quilt Trail first began, Benjamin Moore donated the paint and primer for the first 20 quilts.  As the tradition continues, the committee continues to add to its collection of paint, adding new colors as necessary.  Once an application is approved and the fee is paid, the displaying home owner or business paints the quilt or it is painted by the committee volunteers.   Each year new quilts are added to the trail.  Today, 140 quilts are displayed throughout 646 sq. miles of Schoharie county all with the intent of supporting local business and drawing tourism to the county.  Did you catch that?  140 quilt blocks, many (most) painted by volunteers!  Now that's dedication!   We set out yesterday to see how many quilts we could find and after a few hours we found about 26.  I admit we didn't do an exhaustive search because I wanted to visit some of my favorite locations in the county.  Our drive encompassed Schoharie, Middleburg, Esperance, Cobleskill and Carlisle, Fultonham and Seward.   I may have taken a few photos that didn't involve quilt blocks ;)   So, finding all of them might take a few attempts but with so much to see and do there and foliage season on our doorstep, I'm up for the challenge.

The first quilt we found was at the famous Apple Barrel, home to beautiful home decor, clothing. seasonal items and a wonderful café.  They have 2 quilts on display.

Just down the road is the Schoharie Valley Farms (the former Carrot Barn)...always a great destination for great produce, baked goods, delicious lunches and wonderful plants and perennials, not to to mention the view!

In Middleburgh, whether you hike or not, a stop at Under the Nose is a must.  Located next to the parking lot for hikers at Vroman's Nose, this treasure is filled with wonderful gifts, baked cookies, homemade fudge and scrumptious wraps and paninis.  Even if you don't hike Vroman's nose, treat yourself to one of their amazing ice cream sandwiches made with their fresh-baked cookies!

Also in Middleburgh is the wonderful Art  Park - a beautiful little park filled with exquisite paintings.  Among the art on display are 6 blocks featured on a spinning cube...

At the Middleburg Library

Other great places to visit are the Stone Fort Museum, the covered bridge over Fox Creek, Shaul's Farm on Route 30 in Fultonham (where people have been buying fresh picked produce since 1934), and so, so much more.  There's no end to the rural beauty or fun places to explore throughout the county.  When you visit Gilboa, be sure to check out the Lansing House and the Blenheim-Gilboa Power Authority. In Esperance, be sure to explore Landis Arboretum.  I could go on and on!  Ten years after Hurricane Irene, this community is filled with folks who are resilient, love their neighbors and work together for the common good.  If you haven't explored what Schoharie County has to offer, this is the season to do it.  Here's a peek at more of the quilts we found on this trip.  

If you happened to attend the Sunshine Fair this year, you may have seen a large collection of quilt blocks.  Susan Harker painted 16 quilts, which are hung on the grandstand, in honor of her dad Doug Cater, Director of the Sunshine Fair.  Talk about a labor of love but what an incredible honor. 
 If you're intrigued by the idea of a quilt trail but don't live nearby, not to worry.  There are several more throughout NYS.  Here's a list: https://exploringupstate.com/finding-barn-quilt-trails-upstate-ny/.  Also Suzi Parron as written two books, both available on Amazon: "Barn Quilts and the American Quilt Movement" and "Following the Barn Quilt Trail with Donna Sue Groves" which includes the Schoharie County Quilt Trail (SCQT).   To help you find the quilts along the Schoharie County Quilt BarnTrail, please  visit their Facebook Page where you can find a printed list of all the quilt blocks along with their location and block name: Schoharie Quilt Barn Trail Facebook Page  You can also check out their website: http://quiltbarntrail.com/

Thanks for stopping by Life As I See It. To read more about Schoharie County and other great destinations throughout Upstate NY, check out my blog  Directory under the first category - Destination - New York.  Stay well and don't forget to take time to Collect Moments and Make Memories!

1 comment

  1. What a lovely article! I was one of the founding members of the Schoharie County Quilt Barn Trail and served 5 years as Secretary/Treasurer and painted many of those blocks. It was a joy for me ~ and the beauty it brings to our county is immeasurable. From the absolute abyss of darkness after Hurricane Irene ... this county grabbed itself by it's bootstraps and came back!!!


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