Nineteen Quilt Gardens sites around Elkhart County and Shipshewana will become abuzz with activity in the next two weeks as annuals of every color in the rainbow are planted in dazzling displays.
Approximately 150,000 plants are being delivered to the sites, where hundreds of workers — many of them volunteers — will arrange them into quilt patterns. This year, in honor of Indiana’s Bicentennial, the Quilt Gardens will represent quilt patterns of historical significance.
Planting schedules may be altered slightly by adverse weather, but plans call for each Quilt Gardens site to be planted by Friday, May 27, more than enough time for the official opening of May 30. Visiting any of the Quilt Gardens is free. They will be open to the public through the official closing date of Oct. 1.
Among the highlights:
[caption id="attachment_11479" align="alignleft" ] Volunteers clean up Friday, May 13, around the Nappanee Center Quilt Garden in preparation for planting May 18-19, 2016. Photo courtesy of Quilt Garden-Nappanee Welcome Center Facebook page.[/caption]
-- Nappanee Heritage Center, 302 W. Market St.: True to their enthusiastic nature, the volunteers who plant and maintain this site will be among the first to get their flowers in the ground. They are planting the 1932 Whirligig pattern Wednesday and Thursday morning, May 18-19.
-- Premier Arts, Main and Marion streets, Elkhart: Featuring a 12-foot tall torch, this Quilt Garden can’t help but stand out. The torch was created by Elkhart artist Terry Manderfeld. Made from weather-treated wood, the torch is painted in metallic gold paint and includes piping so that it can be lit on special occasions. Inspired by the 1920 Dogwood pattern, the Back Home Again in Indiana garden will be planted May 23-24 by students and volunteers of Premier Arts, the resident theater company of the Lerner Theatre.
-- Elkhart County Courthouse, Main Street and Lincoln Avenue, Goshen: The 1906 Goshen pattern will be planted May 25. Located in the heart of historic downtown Goshen, this site will — fittingly — be cared for by volunteers from the Goshen Historical Society.
Now in its ninth year, the Quilt Gardens display connects several of the thriving communities of the Elkhart County area — including the cities and towns of Elkhart, Goshen, Nappanee, Middlebury, Bristol, Wakarusa and Shipshewana — via the Heritage Trail. Each year, tour groups from around the U.S. and the world come to Elkhart County to visit the Quilt Gardens.
Last year, approximately 200 people — many of them volunteers — put in an estimated 2,000 man-hours planting, watering and weeding the gardens over four months.
“The Quilt Gardens bring out the best in Elkhart County,” said Diana Lawson, executive director of the Elkhart County Convention & Visitors Bureau, which launched the Quilt Gardens in 2008. “We’re grateful to the hundreds who work so hard to keep each site looking at its best throughout the spring, summer and fall. And we’re humbled by the rave reviews we get from visitors near and far — some coming from as far away as Japan and Australia.”
The May 30 opening of the Quilt Gardens also coincides with the opening of the annual Quilt Mural displays — 21 sites with quilt pattern murals designed by local artists. Many of the Quilt Mural sites are at or near Quilt Gardens sites or along the Heritage Trail driving tour.
“We’re expecting the best year yet for the Quilt Gardens, and we’re especially excited to be celebrating Indiana and local history by being a Bicentennial Legacy Project,” said Sonya Nash, project manager for the Quilt Gardens at the ECCVB. “We hope everyone enjoys the gardens and murals this season.”
One of the highlights of the Quilt Gardens this year will be the Bicentennial Torch Relay on Oct. 4, which will be passing by many Quilt Gardens site on its 52-mile route.
Terry T. Mark is the director of communications for the Elkhart County Convention & Visitors Bureau.