A barn quilt project for Buena Vista County is not only underway for 2008, it could be stitched together with existing projects in Sac and Pocahontas County to create a regional tourism attraction.
About 25 people attended a meeting sponsored by ISU Extension in Buena Vista County Thursday to discuss the possibility of a local project to add the colorful eight-to-12-foot painted quilt panels to historic barns in the area.
"There was a lot of enthusiasm and a lot of ideas raised to make this a good project all around the county," said Extension leader Rhonda Christensen. "So we're going to move ahead."
An organizational meeting will be held January 31 at 7 p.m. in the AEA building meeting room in Storm Lake. Everyone is welcome.
"The people who are interested want to gather more information and more people to take part," Christensen said.
"Two 4-H clubs are also already interested in making the barn quilts as part of fundraiser efforts."
A widespread project could so more than beautify the countryside, according to Christensen.
"This can actually be promoted as tourism, as we have seen Sac County do rather successfully," she said. "It's also a good way of building a sense of pride in our rural area - it's the kind of project the whole county can work on."
Volunteers are needed to paint quilts, as well as property owners with barns that could host the art. Funds will also need to be donated to help get the project off the ground. Anyone interested in taking part in any of those roles may contact the Extension office at 732-5056 or attend the next meeting.
With Buena Vista County located between Sac and Pocahontas counties, each with well-known quilt projects already - the swath of bright rural art stretching across northwest Iowa could attract interest from some distance away, Christensen feels.
"We want to include everyone - from traditional quilters with their pattern ideas, to the tourism experts for Iowa," she said. "We want people to know we are moving ahead."
The first quilts should begin showing up on barns next summer.
Eventually, it is hoped that the project could be featured in its own map, brochure and GPS satellite plotting. A book on the project in Sac County is already proving a successful fundraiser.
The organizers are also hoping to include anyone in the county who may have erected a barn quilt on their own - such as a young Albert City 4-H'er who did one last summer as a club project. Anyone with information on existing local quilt blocks may contact the Extension office.
The barn quilt phenomenon is now catching on in several regions of the country.
The idea started in Grundy County, Iowa, in 2003, as a way to invite residents and tourists to "Take the Road Less Traveled."
Bus tours are being organized in some areas to capitalize on the economic opportunity.
The barn quilt routes showcase the interesting but vanishing barn architecture, along with a variety of quilt patterns. There are now more than 125 barn quilts in the state, including 23 in Sac County and 11 in Pocahontas. Several counties have newly launches or considered projects.