Exploring in Your Own Backyard

…and discovering a Quilt Show! 

There seems to be a popular new buzzword getting a lot of use these days–a “stay-cation”–where you vacation close to home.  The concept isn’t really new, I’ve always enjoyed exploring my own town, county, state, etc.  As a former Museum Curator and later director, it was part of my job to advocate “looking in your own backyard” for fun things to do, meaning visiting your own local tourist destinations; museums, zoos, parks, etc… But as a museum employee, I also knew MANY people, if not MOST people do not visit the attractions that are close by. 

Two weeks ago, I was looking into a place I’d heard about (while in Minnesota in May) called the Wallace Centers of Iowa.  It’s named for Henry A. Wallace, a native son that served as U.S. Secretary of Agriculture in the 1930s, U.S. Vice President (during WWII) and Secretary of Commerce following the war.  He also is the founder of Pioneer Hi-Bred, now an international agri-business giant.  The Country Life Center of the Wallace Centers of Iowa is located on the birthplace of Henry Wallace, near Orient, IA.  It’s is approximately 50 miles from where I live, but I’d never even heard of it before May 2011.  When I looked into the website two weeks ago, I saw that they were having a Garden of Quilts show the following Tuesday.  I said “Sweetie, we’re taking a road trip after work on Tuesday–keep your calendar clear!” 

They have amazing gardens on this site, operate a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) program, educational programs for schools and agricultural groups, a recreated tallgrass prairie-like what once covered most of the state of Iowa, hiking trails, stunning artwork and sculpture among the praire grasses, an orchard, an organic cafe in the barn (above)…and much more.  They have a Farmer’s Garden, a Fairy Garden, a Wedding Garden, a Cottage Garden, A Fishpond Garden, an Herb Garden (outside the door of the cafe kitchen) and Henry’s Garden.
Most of the quilts were on display outdoors, in the gardens, on a very hot and humid July evening. The event takes place every July, and on an evening from 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.  
The event is a fundraisier for the organization, admission was only $3.00.  Seven quilters had their creations on display as well as some vintage quilts from their personal collections.  Connie Nielsen, her mother and her daughter have all crocheted quilts. These two are 100% crocheted quilts!!!

My favorite vintage quilt was this grandmother’sflower garden with the bold, lime green background:

Also inside the barn is a mural painted by Iowa artist Ray Sorensen, commemorating Henry Wallace and his contributions to American Agriculture.  The pansies and strawberries, though much larger than life, looked good enough to pluck off the wall!

The mural also includes a portrait of Henry A. Wallace, and this quotation “If I were to draw conclusions from my life so far, I would say that the purpose of existence here on earth is to improve the quality and abundance of joyous living.” 

There were art quilts, this is Piqued Peacocks by Cinda Long…

A small modern quilt by Cinda…

This one was titled Bora Bora:

This was part of a row quilt that also included pinwheels, cats, a flamingo and poppies (I’m not sure of the connection between these items, but given where we were, I was enthralled by the ears of corn!):
My sweetie really liked the quilting on this one, and he knew the artwork was Mary Engelbreit.  (I have no idea why or how, but he knew…) 
This was fun, a New York City themed quilt, smack dab in a garden in the middle of rural Iowa:

But my favroite of all was this bright beauty hanging over the railing outside the entrance to the barn cafe:

This is a Lakota Star quilt pattern, made entrirely of bright solids.  Stunning.  Naturally I had to get closer…

And as I did, I noticed someone else admiring the quilt “closer up”!

So, do yourself a favor, look around and see what’s in your backyard, or just down yonder, that you might be misisng out on.  Because, as Henry A Wallace said, “the purpose of [our] existence here on earth is to improve the quality and abundance of joyous living.” 


6 thoughts on “Exploring in Your Own Backyard

  1. oooh, me likey those quilts. Thanks for sharing them.

    I love the corn quilt! How clever to make the silks dimensional!

    The lime green one you like is a great twist on tradition. Love it!

    oooh, Hard to pick a favorite.

  2. What a great post and a lovely way to showcase the quilts. We must have the same tastes, because I liked the same ones that you did! Thanks for sharing!

  3. Thanks for a great post. I read a biography of the Wallace family and enjoyed it alot. I like Henry A. but the patriarch was quite a character as well. LOVE the Lakota quilt. That's one of the best I've seen.

  4. Oh my, what a gem of a place!! You've inspired me to find one or two places here in SW Ohio that may be little field trips for me and my *cross my fingers* willing children.

  5. What a neat show! That last one was definitely my favorite, too. I also liked the ears of corn. Cute. Love that quote from Henry Wallace. What a wonderful way to spend the evening. What was the fairy garden like? I've seen some where they put little fairy houses in there and little tiny plants. I think one of those would be fun to have with Elsa. But I really suck at gardening, too.

  6. What a great place to visit and a very wonderful quilt show. I am putting the date on my calendar right now. I'm thinking “road trip” for this fall. Thanks for the posting.

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