They call it "Quilt City, U.S.A.," and for four days in April there
is no doubt whatsoever that Paducah deserves the title. In the later part
of April, the population of Paducah will more than double as nearly 40,000
people from all
over the world descend on the town for the Annual American Quilter's
Society Quilt Show and Contest. Four hundred quilts, including the
finalists, will be on display at the Executive Inn Convention Center, the
event's traditional home. During the run of the show, the Best of Show
award-winning quilts of years past will be on exhibit at the Museum of the
AQS, also in Paducah.
In 1984 the Schroeder's founded AQS to support the
accomplishments of today's quilters by promoting the study and
development of quilts, and to create worldwide recognition of
quilting as an art form.
Meredith Schroeder credits her husband with the idea of founding a
member-based society, similar to a sport-fishing organization to
which he belonged. "We saw that quilters were forming guilds and
knew that there had not been any national competitions since the
World's Fair in 1933," Meredith Schroeder said. "A few magazines
covered quilting from time to time, but there were not many books on
the subject." From 1,500 members in its first
year, the AQS has grown to more than 70,000 members worldwide,
representing professional and amateur quilters, quilting
enthusiasts, contributors, collectors and
of the art of quilting.
The first big quilt show was held in 1985 with cash awards of
$25,000. Now more than $100,000 is
awarded by sponsors to winners in several
categories in the quilt contest, making it the largest prize package
in the quilting industry.
The AQS and the quilt show have had a great and
positive impact on Paducah and much of western Kentucky. The 1991 creation
by the Schroeder's of the Museum of the American Quilter's Society was a
welcome and vital element in downtown and riverfront
revitalization. The non-profit museum maintains year-round
quilt exhibits in three galleries, a museum shop, book shop and
a schedule of workshops and lectures.
The quilt show also boosts the economy of Paducah.
Delphine Operle, executive director of the Paducah-McCracken County
Convention and Visitors Bureau, said it brings in about $15 million each
year. Lodging establishments within a 60-to-100 mile radius are filled to
the limit, with many booked a year in advance. Many shops and other
businesses offer "quilter specials," and practically every business takes
note of the quilt show in its advertising, window displays or product