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Wooden quilt block revealed at fairgrounds

The winning 2019 wooden quilt block was unveiled Tuesday evening at the West End Fairgrounds in Gilbert.

“I thought about what could be digitalized and blocked out. I came up with a design featuring cows, corn, sunflowers and blue ribbons,” said Julie Kresge, a fifth- and sixth-grade teacher at Pleasant Valley School District.

She submitted her design on an 8½-by-11 sheet of paper, using an 8-block grid for the 2019 contest.

“I was in Maine on vacation as the deadline approached. Friends of ours we were with helped me drive around to find a post office and the right materials to ship my entry home,” Kresge said.

The theme was Fairs Feature Agriculture, so she put a lot of thought into her design.

“I can design cloth quilts, but I can’t actually quilt them,” she said. “There’s a lot of symbolism in my wooden quilt block design.”

When positioned, the four blue ribbons created what looks like white arrows.

“The arrows represent how we come from all over. The red and white rectangles remind me of fair food,” Kresge said.

She found out she had won during fair week.

Then came the complicated part of turning the small paper design concept into a reality on a 4-by-4-foot MDO plywood panel.

“It was quite a challenge. It took many hours to put everything together,” she said.

Kresge’s wooden quilt block hangs next to 2018 winner Darlene Beers’ block on the side of the Hay and Grain Building along County Park Road.

Hers is a patriotic American flag block. It is painted to look like a cloth quilt block.

“I got the idea from Eleanor Burns’ book on barn quilts,” said Beers. “My block is an adaptation.”

She is an avid cloth quilter. She and husband Bob also spent many hours transferring her paper design onto the wooden quilt block.

“It’s quite a task to do these,” she said.

The wooden quilt block contest began in 2018, after some West End Fair committee members attended a fair convention seminar in Hershey.

“This is a lost art, just like cloth quilting. It takes a lot of time and ingenuity,” said Patricia Mackes, chairwoman of the wooden quilt block committee.

These two quilt blocks are part of the Pennsylvania State Grange Heritage Trail, which started in 2009 and has over 160 wooden quilt blocks on display on grange halls, fairgrounds and community buildings across Pennsylvania, according to www.pagrange.org.

“People can drive by our building and see our beautiful designs. They are made of really sturdy materials that will last a long time,” Mackes said.

The 2020 fair is canceled due to the pandemic, so there is no wooden quilt block contest this year.

“The cancellation of our fair is a sad situation because so many community organizations raise money here during the week,” Mackes said.

She thanked the contest sponsors for their continued support: Erie Insurance, agent Ken Serfass; and Longarm Charm Quilting LLC – Sharon Gower.

Dick Snyder presented fair President Dale “Peanut” Greenzweig Jr. with a wooden plaque that contains each winner’s name.

“This is really nice,” Greenzweig told Snyder and the audience.

Below their names is a panel for 2020, with “COVID-19” next to it, representing the year’s canceled contest and fair.

During the offseason, the plaque will hang in the fair office building. During the fair, it will be displayed by the exhibits, Mackes said.

The 2021 fair theme will be announced in January.

Dale “Peanut” Greenzweig, left, receives a wooden plaque from Dick Snyder with names of the 2018 and 2019 winners. He also included a panel for 2020, when the fair and wooden quilt block contest were canceled due to COVID-19. STACI L. GOWER/SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS