Creativity country style

This “barn quilt” displayed on the exterior of the Hopkins Historical Society Museum is one of nearly 80 such artworks created by Sandi Lawson, founder of the Hopkins Quilt Trail. The second annual Hopkins Quilt Trail Festival will take place in the town’s municipal park on Sunday, Sept. 18. The free event is to include live entertainment, food, and hayride-style tours of barn quilt locations.

Hopkins resident Sandi Lawson is putting the word out to folks who want to hit the trail next Sunday — the barn quilt trail that is.

Barn quilting — the practice of painting quilt-square patterns on barns, sheds, houses, businesses, and other structures — has become something of a phenomenon across the rural United States in recent years, and Lawson is the leading light behind Hopkins’ goal of cementing its self-proclaimed status as “Barn Quilt City, U.S.A.”

The second annual Hopkins Quilt Trail Festival gets under way at 1 p.m. Sunday, Sept, 18, at the city park on the north end of town next to the athletic fields.

Hosted by the Hopkins Community Betterment Association, the project has garnered considerable local support, including grant funding provided by J.L. Houston Co. and Spalding Insurance.

A total of 77 barn quilts currently grace buildings in and around Hopkins, and participants in next weekend’s free event will get the opportunity to travel the “quilt trail” in wagons pulled by mules, horses, and tractors during a series of hayride-style tours.

Lawson and her husband, Stuart, a retired USDA staff member, moved to Hopkins three years ago from Sullivan County in order to be closer to family.

Having painted as a hobby for more than 30 years, Sandi decided that barn quilts would be a great way to promote community spirit in her new hometown while, at the same time, creating new opportunities for tourism.

The barn quilt thing just became a passion,” she said. “I just want to make people aware that art can take place anywhere.”

Mayor Randy Beason proclaimed Hopkins to be “Barn Quilt City, U.S.A.” during the inaugural festival last year, and Lawson said she believes the town is home to the first such town-based trail in the country.

In addition to tours, Sunday’s event is to include live entertainment, a food concession hosted by the North Nodaway High School junior class, and craft and merchandise vendors.

Those attending are encouraged to bring lawn chairs as well as blankets for use during the hayrides. Alcoholic beverages are prohibited.

Like similar installations in other parts of the county, the Hopkins trail consists of a series of painted wooden quilt squares designed to emphasize various architectural landscapes.

The first quilt trail in the country was established in 2001 in Adams County, Ohio, by Donna Sue Groves, with whom Lawson consulted before beginning her own Nodaway County project.

Over the past 15 years, quilt trails have spring up in a large number of states, including Iowa, Ohio, Kentucky, Kansas, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina, North Dakota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Maryland, Michigan, New York, Wisconsin, Indiana, Illinois, Texas, Minnesota, Nebraska, Colorado, South Dakota, Georgia, Pennsylvania, and Oregon.

The movement has also spread to British Columbia, Ontario, and New Brunswick in Canada.

Once the Hopkins barn quilt trail is firmly established, Lawson said she wants to expand her efforts throughout the Maryville region and, eventually, across the 20 or so counties that make up the northwest Missouri region.

Beyond their artistic impact, she said barn quilts could eventually have a significant impact on tourism.

“It’s a great tool to get people to come and visit the area,” she said. “You just have to get the quilts out there.”

So Lawson is doing her best to do just that. In addition to the nearly 80 barn quilts she has painted in and around Hopkins, her work also dots rural byways in both Nodaway County and Taylor County, Iowa.

She said she’s not really trying to turn a profit on the project, but so far is generating enough cash to pay for paint, plywood, and other expenses.

Lawson’s barn quilts are created in various sizes from 2 feet by 2 feet to 8 feet square. Cost ranges from $25 to $300. To inquire about having a barn quilt painted and installed, call 660.778.3280.

For more information, go to the Show Me the Barn Quilts of Northwest Missouri Facebook page.

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Staff writer Anthony Brown can be reached at tbrown@maryvilledailyforum.com or by calling the newspaper at 660.562.2424.