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Traditions reimagined

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Alison Penn Photo Shannon Wooton and LaDonna Gammill oversee their handiwork on the Historical Society for Southeast New Mexico’s “Double Aster” quilt block. The quilt square was displayed in September in time for the Pecos Valley Quilt Show, according to HSSNM’s executive director Amy McVay-Davis.

Stitching together the Hondo River Barn Quilt Trail

By Alison Penn

Roswell Daily Record

A new community development project called the Hondo River Barn Quilt Trail is making its mark around Roswell with colorful 4-by-4 square signs decorated with geometrical quilt motifs at local businesses. In addition, the Hondo River Barn Quilt Trail may be the first of its kind in New Mexico.

The Hondo River Barn Quilt Trail has 34 quilt squares at this time to “promote tourism, local businesses, preserve history and bring life to the buildings in Chaves County,” as declared on its Facebook page.

Twelve of the 34 quilt squares can be found at the Eastern New Mexico State Fairgrounds, 2500 S. Main St. In Roswell and Chaves County, there are 16 squares and six other squares are placed around East Grand Plains.

Admirers and adventurers alike can use the Hondo River Barn Quilt Trail’s Facebook page, which provides a map to create a full quilt for visitors to follow. There is even a Google Maps link with all the locations available. Many of the quilt squares are visible from the road and the Facebook page encourages onlookers to be cognizant of other traffic if they decided to slow down and pull over to view a quilt.

“Whether someone is a quilter or not, the colors and patterns of quilt squares are something most people enjoy,” Connie Ford, vice president of the Quilt Squad, said. “As a way to bring people to Roswell, a barn quilt trail is something people from elsewhere can connect with and experience in our town, while being exposed to the different areas and businesses.”

Each square of the Hondo River Barn Quilt trail is personalized for the location they are displayed at — such as the burgundy wine glass quilt titled “Rotation” at Pecos Flavors Winery, 412 W. Second St., or the green and cream colored “Hunter Star” at the Greenery, 1501 N. Atkinson Ave. Chaves County Extension Office family consumer science agent Shannon Wooton said that interested businesses fill out a form, pay $100 for supplies and materials, and work with the Quilt Squad to design the quilt square. Wooton said businesses are responsible for hanging their own square, and it must be displayed for at least one year.

“This is not a fundraiser,” Wooton said. “It’s a community development (project) … We want people to be aware of the businesses, the sights that we have here in Roswell and to just enjoy the barn quilt trail.”

The idea for Hondo River Barn Quilt Trail originated from the Quilt Squad Extension Club from the New Mexico State University-Chaves County Extension Office according to Wooton and LaDonna Gammill, a Quilt Squad member and an extension volunteer.

Cheree Bilberry, the Quilt Squad president, said Wooton and Ford shared the idea of starting a local barn quilt trail with the 13 members at one of the club’s monthly meetings. Wooton said that the project was open to the five other extension clubs with 80 members total and grew from there. Wooton extended gratitude to all of the volunteers and sponsors who have helped with this project.

After the idea was sparked, the Quilt Squad began a two-year process of planning in 2017 and placing the quilt squares around Roswell and surrounding areas in the following year. Wooton attended a workshop on barn quilt trails in Montana and Gammill went to another one in Texas. Both of them brought their knowledge to inspire new ideas for the project and Gammill said a small workshop “lit the fire” of momentum for the project.

The other names considered for the local quilt trail were the Chisum, Pecos Valley, or Roswell/Chaves County quilt trail, but the group felt Hondo River Barn Quilt identified the project and won the vote.

“Barn quilts started back more in the east — kind of in Ohio,” Wooton said. “It was one person wanting to honor her grandmother’s quilts … Usually, they are just a block, not the whole quilt and then the trend just started. Trails popped up everywhere and you can go online and see different trails.”

According to the Barn Quilt Info’s website, Donna Sue Groves initiated the project to honor her mother Maxine and her grandmother, who were quilters. The first barn quilt square was hung in Adams County, Ohio, in 2001. Plans for 20 more quilt squares, visible along a pastoral driving trail, followed and Groves’ barn quilt trail spread across the country by news outlets. Eventually, a documentary on her barn quilt trail called “Pieced Together” was released in 2015.

“This is the first organized quilt trail in New Mexico that I am aware of,” Suzi Parron, author of “Barn Quilts and the American Quilt Trail Movement” and “Following the Barn Quilt Trail,” wrote to the Daily Record.

At this time, 48 states — and some areas of Canada — are part of the growing quilt trail movement and more than 7,000 quilts are part of organized trails. On the Barn Quilt Trail Map, there are quilt squares in New Mexico, but no other formalized barn quilt trails are listed. The closest Southwest barn quilt trails are in Alpine, Arizona, and Terry County, Texas.

Bilberry said it was a good feeling to bring beauty and happiness to the community through the project — and that there are plans for it to continue to grow. Wooton and Gammill said new quilt squares will be landing at the park adjacent to the International UFO Museum & Research Center, in Dexter and four more are planned to welcome people to Roswell on the outskirts of town. Going beyond Chaves County, Wooton also said she spoke with someone who wants to start a quilt trail in Otero County after seeing the Hondo River Barn Quilt Trail.

“I love it,” Gammill said of the local quilt trail. “I love the bright colors. I love the sharp lines. That’s what I like the most about it — it’s so satisfying because you tape each section with painter’s tape. And when you pull that tape up and you have that straight line, it’s so cool …”

For more information on either joining the barn quilt trail or becoming a member of one of the clubs, visit the Chaves County Extension Office, 200 E. Chisum St., No. 4, or call 575-622-3210.

Alison Penn can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 205, or at reporter04@rdrnews.com.