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Paducah, Ky. 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 admirers 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 offerings.


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