The Sac County Quilt-A-Fair evolved from the barn quilt project. One of the barn quilt committee members proposed the idea as a way to bring more tourists to rural Iowa to see our barn quilts, as well as the beautiful cloth creations of Sac County area quilters. The first quilt show was held in 2007, with just over 1000 visitors. The show was so successful that the area quilters decided to hold the show on a biennial basis. Subsequent shows have been equally successful. Almost 5,000 visitors have attended the Quilt-A-Fair since its inception.
Spectacular! Sensational! Successful! Those words describe the reaction of one visitor to the Sac County Quilt-A-Fair. In fact, organizers have heard comments from visitors throughout the weekends of the past shows indicating that this was one of the best quilt shows they had ever attended. One vendor wrote in her regional newsletter, "If you were lucky enough to make it to the quilt show in Sac City this weekend, we hope you enjoyed Eleanor Burns. It was a show to see…over 400 quilts, great vendors and demonstrations and the best door prizes in the world. The Sac County businesses really support this event every other year. We really enjoyed seeing practically everyone we know who quilts!"
The main attraction for each year of the Sac County Quilt-A-Fair has been the quilts on display. With over 300 quilts entered and fully displayed during each show, the Quilt-A-Fair is a feast for the eyes. Hundreds of other quilts are displayed in vendor booths and as staging materials for other displays throughout the show grounds.
Visitors to the quilt show can find quilts featuring almost any subject of interest: barns of course, but also cats, dogs, horses, wolves, tractors, purses, dolls, flowers, birds, bears, trees, flags, pinwheels, kites, vegetables, snowmen, witches and spiders….just to name a few. Naturally, there are traditional and modern quilt patterns, antique quilts as well as brand new ones. One out-of-state visitor commented, "You have some really stunning, outstanding quilts represented in this show." Many people complimented the use of small furnishings throughout the displays, indicating that it was more like viewing quilts in a home setting. Maps marked by attendees indicated that visitors have come from at least 20 different states and more than half of Iowa's 99 counties.
The Sac County Quilt-A-Fair has benefited from outstanding speakers and talented quilters during its brief history. Eleanor Burns, a prolific quilt designer and publisher, chose to visit Sac County in 2009 and be a part of the Quilt-A-Fair. She displayed a number of her quilts, signed books and visited with admirers throughout the show. She also gave a special lecture to preview her new book about barn quilts. Diana Beaubien, a quilter and designer from Denison, has presented a first trunk show at the Quilt-A-Fair featuring her machine quilting and her own line of quilt patterns. Susan Bergman, of Arthur, together with her daughter, daughter-in-law and grandchildren, has presented five generations of family quilts in their trunk show. Sandi McMillan, an award-winning quilter from Nebraska has been featured at the Quilt-A-Fair, with a special display of her quilts, a trunk show and a lecture. Susan Cleveland, the 2010 Minnesota Quilter of the Year, has also been a featured speaker for the Quilt-A-Fair.
In 2013, Cynthia Thiessen Hickok, an internationally recognized fiber artist, was featured in her own home town. The crowds also enjoyed trunk shows of Judy Niemeyer quilts. Outstanding vendors have also been an integral part of the Sac County Quilt-A-Fair since its beginning. In addition to their decorative booths filled with patterns, fabrics, tools and other essentials for quilt enthusiasts, the vendors have provided interesting demonstrations on stage each year. These demonstrations have featured new techniques, new tools and other tips to help quilters improve their skills.
A sale area of "Bits and Pieces" offers visitors the chance to browse through gently used quilting books, patterns, fabrics and other quilting tools. To be family friendly, organizers of the Quilt-A-Fair have incorporated classic car and tractor shows on the fairgrounds. Quilters and their family members, as well as many others, have enjoyed beautiful fall weather and the interesting line-up of classic cars and tractors.
Other outdoor attractions that have added flavor to the Sac County Quilt-A-Fair were the food stands and the Quilt Gazebo, featuring an array of beautiful barn quilts for sale.
The Sac County Quilt-A-Fair was organized by a large group of area quilters, who took responsibility for different parts of the show, such as developing floor plans, designing and building structures to display the quilts, designing the lay-out plan for the display, coordinating props and decorations, publicity, developing the quilt entry forms and programs, registering the quilt entries in a data base and creating show cards, coordinating welcome bags and door prizes, intake and checkout of the quilts, coordinating the bits and pieces sale items, arranging for quilt raffle items, contacting and coordinating vendors, coordinating volunteer schedules for the show, preparing the fair buildings for the show, contacting and coordinating food arrangements and handling all the finances for the event. The Sac County Quilters use any profit they receive from the quilt show to fund the subsequent show, to provide a maintenance fund for the county's barn quilts and to help bring prominent quilt teachers to rural Iowa.