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June 2012
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By DAVID ZOELLER dzoeller@paducahsun.com

Any visitors who have attending the American Quilter's Society Quilt Week in Paducah on their "bucket list" will have two chances to cross that item off in 2017.

That's because in addition to the upcoming AQS Quilt Week in Paducah April 26-29, a fall quilt week event is scheduled for Sept. 13-16.

"Coming to quilt week is on everyone's bucket list," said Bonnie Browning, AQS executive director. "But everybody hasn't been able to come to Paducah (for the spring show). With the number of hotels here, we fill every one within 40-50 miles. So all the people can't come because they can't get lodging.

"Hopefully, by us doing two shows we'll have a new audience come in the fall and they will be able to get hotel rooms," Browning said.

The new downtown hotel, which is nearing completion, will help accommodate visitors to the quilt show and other events in Paducah. In addition, the Paducah Convention & Visitors Bureau sponsored a seminar in February on the home-sharing platform AirBnB, to meet the growing demand for visitors who prefer alternative lodging options.

This year, in addition to Paducah, AQS will hold quilt shows in Daytona Beach, Florida; Lancaster, Pennsylvania; Grand Rapids, Michigan; and Des Moines, Iowa.

"Our shows always attract the best quilts that are being made today," Browning said.

Quilters can enter their work in both the spring and fall Paducah shows, according to Browning, but they can't enter the same quilt in each.

"That assures us we'll have new quilts every time we do a show."

Attendance at Paducah's spring event last year brought in an estimated 32,000 people.

"It (Paducah) is our No. 1 show," Browning said. "It's also one of the largest shows in the country. The quilt show in Houston had 50,000 people attend, and so ours at 32,000 is the second highest."

AQS officials don't necessarily expect the fall show to equal the record spring event.

"Typically, we run anywhere from 15,000 to 20,000 (attendance) when we do a 'new' show," Browning said. "We fully expect that we're going to be somewhere around 20,000 in the fall show."

There will be some differences between the spring and fall event, according to Browning.

"In the spring show we will be giving $125,000 in prize money and our judges pick the top awards. And, then we have what we call purchase awards. If they (quilters) have one of the top five quilts and they accept the $20,000 for best of show, that quilt goes into the permanent collection at the National Quilt Museum," she said.

In the fall show, there will be $121,000 in prize money, no purchase awards, and the judging will be handled differently.

"We'll have 15 categories for the fall show and the judges will pick first, second and third place in each category," Browning said. "Then we're going to open it up on Tuesday night, right when we do our preview night, to public judging. The public will vote for the top seven winners."

The best of show will be awarded $20,000, the best wall entry will receive $11,000, and then the first through fifth-place winners will receive $10,000, $9,000, $8,000, $7,000 and $6,000 respectively.

"So the show will be partially judged by the regular judges and final selection will be done by the public among the 15 first place winners in every category," Browning said. "And everybody gets one vote."

The judging by the public will begin at 7 p.m. on Tuesday of the fall quilt week and close at noon on Friday.

"The winners won't be announced until Friday evening, and we're going to do that at Walker Hall (instead of the Carson Center)," Browning said. "We think it will be a more intimate setting, and it will be fun to have everyone see who the final winners are that the public voted on."

Other changes in the fall show include an appearance by Jenny Doan, of the Missouri Star Quilt Company, who is well-known in the quilting world, according to Browning. In addition, some workshops are being added on Monday and Tuesday during the week's activities.

"The quilt show really put Paducah on the world map," Browning said. "I travel a lot and to other countries and certainly everybody knows - they may not know exactly where Paducah is - but they know what Paducah is. And that is the home of the American Quilter's Society."

The city's relationship with quilts and fiber art also played a key role in Paducah's designation as a UNESCO Creative City of Craft & Folk Art, according to Browning.

A 2014 survey by the Kentucky Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet estimated the regional impact of the AQS quilt show at $25 million.

"The impact it has on the community, and why it's valuable, is we bring people in from outside the community," Browning said. "We have large events, like BBQ on the River and some of those things, but a lot of people that go to them would be spending their money here anyway.

"When you have an event that brings in 32,000 people, the majority of those people are coming from somewhere else so that's new money (being spent) and that's the real value of tourism," she said.

"You want those people to come in from other places and spend their money. Every time they buy gas, every time they buy a meal, that money is used (by local businesses) to pay their employees, rent and all that kind of stuff ... so the value of tourism is huge."

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