Barns inspire the imagination, as witnessed by 4-H entries at the 2006 Iowa State Fair and renovation/preservation projects cropping up across the state. Barns also have been giving a boost to the Iowa economy through tourism.
Visitors to the State Fair 4-H Exhibits Building found a barn-shaped doghouse, barn crafts, photos, art, toy barns and reports of barn restoration. But perhaps the most noticeable evidence of youthful fascination with barns was shown by the huge barn quilts.
A big star barn quilt belongs to Madelaine Miller of Boone County. She made one like it , only larger, for her grandparents' barn.
Miller was inspired by the work of Kevin Peyton, the rural Sac County youth who showcased his 4-H project, Barn Quilts of Sac County, at the 2005 Iowa State Fair with Gov. Tom and First Lady Christie Vilsack. Peyton went on to win a Herbert Hoover Uncommon Student scholarship and a national Prudential Spirit of Community award. Sac now sparkles with 35 painted plywood barn quilts and a tour map (see www.barnquilts.com).
Peyton, a freshman at ISU this fall, credits the Grundy County barn quilt project as his inspiration.
Grundy County in turn adopted the idea from Adams County, Ohio.
A drive along U.S. Highway 20 brings the motorist into barn quilt counties starting at Sac on the west or Grundy on the east. In between those counties, two more - Hamilton and Hardin - have 4-H'ers pursuing barn projects. Greene County has nine quilts.
Motor north to Pocahontas, Humboldt and Wright counties to find still other barn projects created with the help of youthful 4-H enthusiasm. For more, see www.iowaartists.org/quilts/