Appalachian Quilt Trail expands to Blount County

From press reports

A unique tourist attraction, the Appalachian Quilt Trail, announced it will expand into Blount County, and possibly along the 321 corridor through Loudon, Sevier and Cosby Counties. The trail showcases historic quilt patterns which are recreated on wooden panels and displayed on buildings ranging from barns to businesses.

The goal of the trail is to provide visitors with a unique way to explore the state and connect its communities and people with the past. Organizations behind the trail hope to incite economic development by attracting visitors to the local businesses, while still honoring the tradition and scenic beauty.

“This quilt trail provides Blount County with another heritage-related attraction that is helping us establish a sustainable tourism program to showcase our community’s heritage, culture and history, and we are excited to be part of this program” said Herb Handly, executive vice president of tourism for the Smoky Mountain Convention and Visitors Bureau. “Dynamic programs like this one are not only important for each individual community, but for the entire region. The trail ties our communities together, and it allows us to create another attraction for visitors along the 321 corridor, which will help encourage historic preservation in this area.”

The first quilt in Blount County is located at The Mountain Sage Gallery and Woodshop in Townsend. Jane Richardson, co-owner of the gallery with her son, Wade, said that their association with the trail was “one of those serendipity things.”

“It’s really an interesting story. My son, Wade, was driving to North Carolina when he saw a quilt painting on the side of a building that caught his eye. We had been trying to find ways to make our business more noticeable, so he came back and told me about it. I said ‘okay, why don’t we do it.’”

With the help of her friends and fellow artists Suzanna Terrill and Jeanie Vanwinkle, Richardson painted a quilt square and hung it on the gallery.

“We chose a pattern called ‘Delectable Mountains,’ because we are the Mountain Sage Gallery and Woodshop. We used three colors, purple for the mountains, green for the trees and yellow for the sunshine.”

Handly noticed the hanging quilt, and inquired to see if it, and Blount County, could become part of the quilt trail program. Then, after reviewing the location and the quilt, Mountain Sage was invited to officially be the first business in Blount County to get involved.

“We did it without knowing what we were doing, and consequently, now we are a part of it. We are very excited,” Richardson said.

The trail is expected to expand to many other locations and add new stops in Blount County, but the exact number of Blount County locations is yet to be determined.

To date, there are more than 250 stops in 18 counties on the self-guided tour. Each quilt represents a different place and time in history including pioneer homesteads, battlegrounds and other historical sites.

“Most quilt patterns come from a quilt that has been in the family, some more than 100 years, and tell a story about that specific family, barn and farm,” said Alice Fleenor, director of communications and development for the Appalachian Quilt Trail. “Not only has the Quilt Trail created an appreciation for farmland, but it has also caused people to restore barns and document family history, and also allows people to experience unique areas within the region.”

Blount County businesses and residents are encouraged to participate in the program by applying to be a designated location along the trail. In order to be considered, a business or resident’s property must meet certain criteria as it relates to safety and location.

“We want to encourage safe driving habits, and thus the location would have to be one at which visitors can safely stop and pull their cars to the side of the road and to get out,” said Fleenor. “The area must also be highly visible from the road, as well as a feasible and logical spot in regard to the rest of the trail loop.”

Locations meeting this criteria should call the office of the Appalachian Quilt Trail, toll free at 888-775-4AQT (4278), for an application. Approved locations will be provided with a quilt square. Sponsorships for the quilt blocks are accepted and some grant assistance may be available.

The quilt trail brochure is available at welcome centers and online at www.vacationAQT.com. The organization is also working to get road signs in place to guide visitors along the trail.

The Appalachian Quilt Trail is sponsored in part by the Clinch-Powell Resource Conservation and Development Council. For more information, visit www.vacationAQT.com.

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