State Fair montageBetween all the county and state fairs and the five Midwest quilt museums; we’re not living in the Corn Belt, we’re living in the ‘Quilt Belt!’

IMG_7340Some of the more venerable Midwestern summertime activities in rural communities are county and state fairs. From stock car races, demolition derbies, 4-H exhibits and animal barns, county fairs also show off some pretty amazing quilts, handwork and specialty food items made by local people. Ribbons of a blue hue are especially coveted and not easy to get even in the more remote parts of the Midwest. Each county fair in Minnesota funnels their quilt blue ribbon winners to the state fair and they are all hung together on big rug-style display hangers. It’s very impressive. The display is located in the Creative Activities building and is a must-see not only because they’re the best of the county, but they’re not folded and placed around other things. They are hung up so you can see all the details of the quilting. Fair awards are known as premiums, so when you’re looking through a website, click on ‘Premium Book’ or Competitions and you’ll see a list of categories or divisions that are a part of the exhibition. I’ve been to several Midwest state fairs and many county fairs and there are always quilts, knitting and photography, art and other categories showcased in one of the large buildings.

Two county fairs are close to the Twin Cities. The Carver County Fair is August 5 – 9, 2015 and the Dakota County Fair is August 10 – 16, 2015.

Carver County FairDakota county fair






Setting up for the North Dakota State Fair–give a listen to quilt judge Kate Eelkema

Here’s a short list of state fair dates from a few from neighboring states:

Iowa State Fair in Des Moines, August 13 -23, 2015. If you want additional info, click on Competition from the main menu.  Iowa county fair info can be found here thanks to the Des Moines Register. There’s a lot of them considering Iowa has 99 counties and they are going on all summer long.

Minnesota State Fair in Falcon Heights, MN. August 27 – Labor Day. It’s always the held in the dog days of summer and I always buy a jar of the Minnesota State Fair Blue Ribbon pickles–it’s so cool to see something go directly from a local kitchen to grocery store shelves. The Minnesota Knitters’ Guild has an entire meeting devoted to the rehash of state fair judging results. It’s a long meeting because so many people enter items in the event. On the first day of the fair, knitters arrive when the gates open and scout out placement and friends’ work. It’s a whole lot of fun whether it’s your work or someone else’s hanging in the display case. Sometimes, there’s a bit of consternation regarding the color of the ribbon awarded, but most often people feel recognized and rewarded with any color they receive. Recently there’s been a lot of chatter about entering fiber and textile pieces in the Fine Art exhibit instead of the Creative Activities exhibits.  County fairs in Minnesota are found here with dates, links and info!

Wisconsin State Fair, Milwaukee, WI. August 6 – 16, 2015. Wisconsin also has a website just for its county fair listings. Links aweigh! Here is a link to Wisconsin’s Fairest of the Fairs.

Michigan has a couple of big state fair events. There’s the Eastern Michigan State Fair that’s in Inlay City, Michigan. It runs from July 28 – August 1, 2015.  And then there’s the Upper Peninsula State Fair which claims to be the only state fair. August 17 – 23, 2015. Michigan is awesome with the big sand dunes along Lake Michigan. The water is three shades of blue all the time.

Nebraska State Fair in Lincoln, NE. August 28 – September 7, 2015. This could be a fabulous trip for quilt gazing as your drive to Grand Island takes you through Lincoln where the International Quilt Study Center is located. I’ve been to the quilt exhibit at this fair and it’s top notch. They feature County Quilt Blocks from each of Nebraska’s 93 counties. Cool. And that’s not the only quilt and textile exhibit in the building. And…Keith Urban is the main show. Hmmm


My favorite state fair logo is from South Dakota. 

Links to all the State Fairs are at the end of this story.

Midwest Quilt Museums

Not to be outdone by fair flash, there are five quilt museums in the Midwest. Each museum has a unique history and mission and is worth visiting at least once. While each museum has a goal of preserving quilts and quilt history, they are successfully preserving women’s history, too.

Wisconsin Museum of Quilts & Fiber Arts in Cedarburg, Wisconsin

The Wisconsin Museum of Quilts & Fiber Arts, located just east of historic downtown Cedarburg, Wisconsin, is dedicated to educating the public about the artistic, cultural, historic and social importance of quilts and fibers arts.  We also seek to increase the awareness of historic structure preservation.  Their repurposed 1850s farmstead is used to:

  • Foster and inspire creativity by hosting exhibits of artists from traditional to contemporary techniques;
  • Educate children and adults, from beginners to experienced fiber artists, in the time-honored crafts;
  • preserve quilts and other fiber arts items, maintaining our own collection and encouraging others to document their treasures.
  • maintain a library for researchers interested in exploring how quilts and other fiber arts have changed over time.

Kalona Quilt and Textile Museum in Kalona, Iowa

Known as the Quilt Capitol of Iowa, Kalona is the home of the Quilt & Textile Museum located in the Kalona Historical Village Welcome Center. The museum features galleries for both Amish and English quilts, showcasing quilt history of the midwest and beyond. The collection was begun in 2000 by Marilyn Woodin, avid quilt collector, and present curator of the museum. Since that time, the collection has expanded and is kept in humidity & light controlled rooms. Many exhibitions also require the loan of quilts from other collections. New exhibits are created every three months with a variety of themes in each gallery, so if you have visited the museum in the past, chances are you will discover something new with each visit.

International Quilt Study Center and Museum in Lincoln, Nebraska

The International Quilt Study Center & Museum’s mission is to inspire an understanding of the cultural and artistic significance of quilts by collecting, preserving, studying, exhibiting and promoting discovery of quilts and quiltmaking traditions from many cultures, countries and times.

We envision the IQSCM as a dynamic center of formal and informal learning and discovery for students, teachers, scholars, artists, quilters and others. Our comprehensive and accessible collection of quilts, related textiles and documents form a primary text for study, insight and inspiration. IQSCM is an academic program of the the Department of Textiles, Merchandising & Fashion Design in the College of Education and Human Sciences at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. The department offers a unique Masters degree in Textile History with a quilt studies emphasis, which is the only program of its kind in the world.

Quilters Hall of Fame in Marion, Indiana 

The mission of The Quilters Hall of Fame is to celebrate quilting as an art form by honoring the lives and accomplishments of those people who have made outstanding contributions to the world of quilting; by restoration and preservation of the home of quilt designer Marie D. Webster in Marion, Indiana; by promoting public awareness of quilting through educational programs, exhibitions, publications and research; and by collecting, preserving and documenting materials related to the Honorees of The Quilters Hall of Fame.

Great Lakes Quilt Center in Lansing, Michigan 

The GLQC is a part of Michigan State University’s Museum. The primary goals of the center are to:

  • record oral and written history documenting quilting and the personal histories of quiltmakers
  • expand and maintain a research collection of information on Great Lakes quilting
  • initiate research, educational and exhibition programs to bring quilting history to a wider audience
  • increase awareness of textile conservation issues and support preservation efforts of endangered textiles
  • identify and recognize quilters and quilting traditions from diverse regional, social, economic, and ethnic backgrounds
  • honor outstanding individual quilters and quilt groups through the Michigan Heritage Awards and other programs
  • support the continuation of traditional quilting styles and practices through the Michigan Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Program
  • publish information on quilts, quiltmakers, and quiltingmaking history and traditions, especially that of the Great Lakes region.

CoppesCommons_Week13-3-edit2Quilt Gardens in Indiana

The Quilt Gardens along the Heritage Trail near Elkhart, Indiana are amazing and spread out across the county.


State Fair Links:

Iowa State Fair Des Moines, IA August 13 – 23, 2015

Minnesota State Fair St. Paul, MN August 27 – Labor Day

Wisconsin State Fair Milwaukee, WI August 6 – 16, 2015

Indiana State Fair Indianpolis, August 7 – 23, 2015

Illinois State Fair  Springfield, IL August 13 – 23, 2015

Missouri State Fair Sedalia, MO August 13 – 23, 2015

Nebraska State Fair Lincoln, August 28 – Labor Day

South Dakota State Fair Huron, SD September 3 – 7, 2015

North Dakota State Fair Minot, ND July 17 – 25, 2015

Ohio State Fair Columbus, OH July 29 – August 9, 2015

Michigan State Fairs Escanaba, MI August 17 – 23, 2015

Happy travels!