|Bele Chere from Asheville Guidebook|
Thirty-four years ago, a handful of hardworking quilting mamas got together to show off some quilts at the third annual Bele Chere festival, that behemoth party whose purpose in being spawned by various bygone members of the Asheville City Council was to revitalize Asheville’s lovely but ailing downtown. Little did they know that this small meeting would spawn the biggest and one of the most prestigious, quilting guilds and quilt show in the nation, even outliving the seeminly eternal 3-day block party that marked its beginnings. It’s also hard to think that this was at the time in my life when, some 5,000 miles away in South America, my youngest child was soon to turn 3.
Yet here we are, thirty-three years later, only recently recovering from yet another Asheville Quilt Show, hosted and cooked up by us, the valiant members of the Asheville Quilt Guild. Like Bele Chere, the show is a 3-day quilting extravaganza with vendors, contests, demonstrations, silent auctions, shows, cash prizes… anything that the quilt maven requires. And also like Bele Chere, the grueling torturous hard work to pull it off, and then to clean up after it’s done, is an effort that leads exasperated volunteers to say every year “ENOUGH! NO MORE!”
But in the end it is such a fun event, and so profitable, not just for the Asheville Quilt Guild but for preserving the art of quiltmaking, period, that we persist, year after year, and most likely will, as long as there is a group of artisans in Asheville who like to create, show off, and promote quilts.
“The Harvest of Quilts” ran from October 2 through 5 this past weekend. Even though I did not participate by displaying a quilt this year, I volunteered a good chunk of my time for the past few weeks, and during the event itself, to get the show going before and after the show.
This quilt show holds true prestige in the quilting world. When you mention the Asheville Quilt show to any quilter within the continental U.S. and beyond, even to some of the heavyweights with their own TV shows and longstanding clientele, chances are they will know about the show and even have had occasion to participate at least once. The show is so popular that some quilters join the Asheville Quilt Guild from other states, without having set foot in Western North Carolina, just for the edge that membership gives attendees. This just goes to show how much they value it. The show has gotten more popular, and grown bigger every year. We had entries from all over the country and some from Mexico and Canada. The folks who entered quilts are artists in the full sense of the word; some of the pieces displayed simply cannot be believed. Some of the work you see there is superb.
This show is a great source of income for the Asheville Quilting Guild, and all the work it does to promote the art, craft, and marketing of quilts and quilting-related products. The funds not only pay for next year’s event – venue, prize fund, judges’ fees, etc – but also help pay for special Asheville Quilt Guild speakers’ fees, special educational programs, and the inevitable expenses that come from running such an established, successful guild. For instance, the new and much-needed updated website, a new quilt hanging system, and a new PA system, are all projects that have been funded thanks to past successful quilt shows.
I don’t think that 33 years ago, any of the original Quilt Guild members, who first met one sunny day in Asheville’s most notorious festival, could have predicted that we would be going strong to this day. Some of the original members are still around, and I wonder how often they look back to that long-ago summer day, to see how far things have come.