Perry County Quilters Give to Fair, Community

8/10/2013 7:00 AM
By Tabitha Goodling Central Pa. Correspondent

NEWPORT, Pa. — A small group of Perry County women are making more than quilts for the Perry County Fair in central Pennsylvania this year. They are creating opportunities for Perry County students’ futures.

They are not a quilting guild. They are simply a group of friends who love to quilt and who began a program eight years ago to give proceeds from the quilts for scholarships.

This year’s Perry County Fair is Aug. 20-24 at 248 Fairgound Road in Newport, Pa.

Each quilt is made with the help of participants in the community.

Three collaborative quilts are featured each year at the fair, including one created through a “My Favorite Quilt Square” event, made with patches by Perry County adults. A youth version of the event is the creation of a quilt for which children ages 8 to 13 can submit their own patches. A third quilt is made by fair-goers who try their hand at quilting patches submitted from the previous year’s fair.

Ruth Britcher of Newport, Pa., Kay Dorundo of New Bloomfield, Pa., Nancy Sunday of Marysville, Pa., and Martha Smith and Pat Zabo of Newport make up the group of retired women who do the main work of each quilt, including the framing. All five women also volunteer in other forms throughout their community and donate their own time and money to this quilting project.

The Scholarship

Britcher came up with the idea to have the community’s involvement in the quilts through the fair and to give the money to high school students. She said she saw something similar done at a quilting show.

“We do the labor, and this quilt is for the community,” said Britcher, who made clothing for her own children and spent decades working in sewing factories.

“It’s charity,” Dorundo said. “College is getting more and more expensive for students.”

The women donate $300 as a group to the project and spend each Monday working at the community grange outside of Newport quilting in one form or another — whether on fair quilts or other projects they can donate to the community.

“We don’t make any money on this. All of the money that is made at the fair goes to those scholarships,” Dorundo said.

Depending upon how much money is raised, one to four scholarships may be available. This year, the fair will award a scholarship to each of the Perry County high schools: Newport, West Perry, Greenwood and Susquenita.

This year’s scholarship winners are Amber Gable, Bradley Sloop, Shawna Weller and Kathryne Osbourne.

The students who receive the scholarships must demonstrate an interest and participation in community service, have concrete career plans and make above-average grades.

Favorite Quilt Patches

Last year 30 participants entered the “My Favorite Quilt Patch” competition. All 30 patches are placed on the quilt with the top five winning patches in the center.

The first-place contestant wins $5, second place, $4; third place $3; fourth place, $2 and fifth place, $1. The blocks are judged in the categories of hand-sewn, machine-sewn and applique.

The guidelines state that the quilt block must be 12-1/2 inches square; 100 percent cotton and prewashed without any buttons, charms or paint added. Any color or pattern is allowed and only one entry is permitted per class. Contestants do not have to be from Perry County to enter.

Each year the contest has a particular theme for the patches.

Nine entries came in last year for the youth contest and were placed on the quilt. The women in the quilting group said they were amazed by the talent of the youngsters.

Dorundo said that sometimes the top bidder of this quilt goes to a parent or grandparent of one of the youth entrants.

Making the perfect patch takes time; some patches take longer depending on the method of sewing.

Nancy Sunday said the women recently attended a quilt show in Chambersburg, Pa., and realized that “90 percent of the quilts were machine-sewn.”

“Hand-quilting is becoming a thing of the past,”she said. “People want results quickly.”

A Community Quilt

The most difficult quilt to complete, the women agreed, is the one that fair-goers themselves create during fair week.

The women set themselves up at a table and work on sewing and stitching as fair attendees walk by. They try their best to encourage fair folk to sit down and give it a try.

“We have so many problems getting people to help,” Dorundo said. “They will watch. We encourage people to go to the auction, and (tell them) if they like this one, it will be available the next year.”

No experience is necessary.

Dorundo said, “We really encourage them to try to hand-quilt,” noting that one of the women in the quilters group will help first-timers. “The whole fair time you can do this,” she said.

Beginning the Monday before the fair starts, the women are set up to quilt in shifts, until 7 or 8 p.m. each day.

The women take the unfinished quilt over to the fairgrounds on rollers. Whatever is not finished at the fair is completed back at the grange building by the group.

The more help at the fair, they say, the merrier.

Though they discourage small children and people with food and drink to sew, Dorundo said, “We won’t turn anyone down.”

All quilts will be auctioned between 4:30 and 5:30 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 24, at the livestock sale in the barn.

For more information about the quilt show, call 717-567-3084.

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