BY KEN LITTLE
Saturday was a glorious day for quilt-lovers in Northeast Tennessee, and not just because of the beautiful fall weather.
Greene County was the place to be, with eight destinations included as part of the 10th anniversary celebration of the Quilt Trail of Northeast Tennessee.
More than 100 quilt squares on barns in Greene, Carter, Johnson, Sullivan, Unicoi, and Washington counties were the centerpiece of the event.
A special highlight of the celebration were the more than 250 quilts of all ages, colors, designs and fabrics on display in the gymnasium at the Nathanael Greene Museum, located at the corner of South Main and West McKee streets in the Greeneville Historic District.
The museum, a longtime former school, also has a schoolhouse quilt square painted above the entrance on the side of the building that faces West McKee Street.
In addition, the museum was a popular stop for Quilt Trail participants looking to get their "passport" book of Quilt Trail stops stamped.
Museum volunteer Betty Fletcher pointed out the intricate craftsmanship on several of the quilts displayed in the gym.
One with a log cabin pattern was created in 1881 by Jennie Broyles, of Horse Creek.
"There are over 400 stitches," Fletcher said. "We have several quilts that are over 100 years old."
Many of the colorful quilts on display at the museum were made by Juanetta Swatzell, who has a quilt shop on Baileyton Road. Swatzell and other quilters also helped set up the display in the gym, Fletcher said.
One "crazy quilt" on permanent display in the museum was made from a blanket used by a Civil War Confederate soldier. The soldier's wife made the quilt, Fletcher said.
Others on display are replicas of "Underground Railroad" quilts from the Civil War era, Fletcher said. The quilts contained codes that communicated information to African-American slaves about how to escape to freedom.
All the quilts on display Saturday at the museum were decorative. But they also had practical uses.
"You made quilts out of what you had," Fletcher said. "A quilt keeps you warm."
Quilting enthusiasts were excited about the display at the museum.
"I'm quilt-crazy anyway. I love quilts," said Beverly Shaw, who was volunteering Saturday at the event.
Karen Zimmerman was among many museum visitors.
"They have such a fantastic collection. The museum has done a lot of great work," she said.
Zimmerman has been quilting since 1998 and is part of a group that meets every Monday at Norte Dame Catholic Church in Greeneville.
"I just love everything about it," she said. "Quilting is addictive."
MYERS PUMPKIN PATCH
Myers Pumpkin Patch & Corn Maze in Bulls Gap was another Quilt Trail participant Saturday.
"We were one of the original quilt trail patterns here on the farm, and that was 10 years ago," said Vera Ann Myers, who operates the popular attraction with her husband, Eldon.
Quilt patterns were on display on panels inside the open-air farm store. Quilt Trail visitors on Saturday received a free drink and a roasted marshmallow after their "passport" was stamped.
Colleen Bowman, an art instructor at South Greene High School, was at the farm painting distinctive patterns on gourds.
"We call them grandma's quilt gourds," Bowman said. "My grandma was a quilter."
Bowman's students are given a gourd to work with every fall, "and they decorate it in a pattern my grandmother had," she said.
The students also painted the quilt panels that are on display at the farm.
Painted gourds and pumpkins are sold at fundraisers benefiting South Greene High School programs.
"I donate the gourds and pumpkins for her class, and in turn, they paint the quilt gourds for me," Myers said.
The overhead quilt panels on display at the store, Bowman said, were inspired by patterns associated with the "Underground Railroad": secret routes that runaway slaves followed to escape from the South to freedom before the Civil War.
Bowman painted the quilt mural on the red log cabin on the Myers' farm property.
STILL HOLLOW FARM
Still Hollow Farm, on West Allens Bridge Road, was another Quilt Trail destination.
Jay and Ann Birdwell own the farm. Volunteer assistant Star Mays said Saturday afternoon that more than 30 tours of the farm had been given.
"This happened to be the Quilt Trail's 10th anniversary. We have weddings (here), and we have a fall festival this time of year," Jay Birdwell said.
A quilt panel on an old granary on the property features ears of corn. The granary itself is now an events pavilion.
"That's the pattern of the quilt," Jay Birdwell said. "We raise a lot of sweet corn."
The farmhouse was built in the 1800s. A fifth generation of the Birdwell family is growing up at the farm.
The Birdwells were full-time farmers when they began to experiment in agritourism.
"The very first thing we did besides join the Greene County Partnership was join the Quilt Trail," Ann Birdwell said in a release promoting the event.
The green-and-yellow "Ear of Corn" quilt square was painted by West Greene High School students.
The Quilt Trail of Northeast Tennessee began in 2003, when Roy Settle, a U.S. Department of Agriculture employee and a member of the USDA's Resource Conservation and Development Council, heard about a new initiative in Ohio.
Settle learned that quilt patterns were being painted on old family barns. The Quilt Trail concept was enthusiastically adopted in Northeast Tennessee.
The Quilt Trail welcomed its 110th site in September, at Cleek Farms in Kingsport. There are 16 Quilt Trail sites in Greene County.
"I did not dream it would be anything like this. We thought this would be something for locals to drive around and see on a Sunday afternoon," Settle said in a news release.
Greene County Quilt Trail sites participating in Saturday's "Open House on the Quilt Trail" included one location -- with two points of interest -- in downtown Greeneville, at the Nathanael Greene Museum.
In addition to Still Hollow Farm and Myers Pumpkin Patch & Corn Maze, other participating Quilt Trail locations in Greene County included The Farm at Spring Creek, off Ottway Road; Southerland Farms, at Birdwell Mill Road; Nolichucky Bluffs and Cabins, on Kinser Park Lane; and the Walnut Ridge Llama Farm, on Chuckey Highway.