St. Mary's Quilt Show began with a picture on Pinterest. I saw the beautiful image of a quilt show in the sanctuary of Eglise-Sacre-Coeur-Church in Saulnierville, Nova Scotia. It literally took my breath away. I happened to be with my6 quilting buddies, Paula Allison and Margee Manning, at the time and asked them if they would like to do this at our beautiful, historic painted church, The Nativity of St. Mary's in Plantersville, Texas. They said yes and we were off and running!
Our next step was to present our plan to Father Ed Kucera, Pastor of St. Mary. Margee and I along with our husbands and Father Ed were having dinner at my house and I showed him the image of the Canadian church. He too was amazed. Then came the question. Do you think we could do this at St. Mary's? His response was an immediate, enthusiastic "Yes!"
Paula, Margee and I talked about our goals for the show. We wanted to have a first class quilt show that was unique. We wanted people to come to our beautiful church, and experience a day to remember.
One of our key decisions was to not charge an entry fee for the quilt show. We didn't want anyone to have to pay to enter our church. We would request donations, and if we had any profit, we would donate it to the St. Mary/St. Joseph Society of St. Vincent De Paul. This wonderful organization assists people in need in our community, so it's reach outside of our church seemed like the perfect match.
Our docents in the church, dressed in black slacks and white blouses, would answer questions about the church, and wear white gloves to turn or exhibit the quilts. The docents would be there to welcome our guests and provide guidance to the steady throng. Every quilt has a story and we would hang each person's story by their quilt. The stories are compelling, inspiring and sometimes bring a smile or a tear. The stories bring the quilts alive.
We decided to have vendors in the new church hall, along with The Dresden Plate Cafe. Our church already had many excellent volunteers who prepare food every Sunday for Hospitality, so we knew that would be a good start. Under the leadership of Mary Ellen Lundquist, our Cafe was born.
Our venue is unique. Besides the Church and the Hall, we have gorgeous gardens, so spring was the obvious time to hold the show. Our ﬁrst show would be April 25 and 26, 2015. We also have a huge covered pavilion, giving us dining space al fresco for the cafe. In the event of inclement weather, most of the venue is undercover, except, of course, the gardens. The ﬁnal piece was a Rafﬂe Quilt, donated by Paula Allison.
Now we needed to raise some money to get started. Besides the Friends of St. Mary's Quilt Show, who donated their personal funds and our generous local business sponsors, we were able to raise enough money to cover our expenses before the show took place! Bravo!
Next we needed to spread the news of our upcoming show and ﬁnd vendors who wanted to take a chance on us. Paula, Margee and I visited many Quilt Shows and Quilt Shops to talk with vendors and many Quilt Guilds to present our show to quilters. We traveled all over Houston and beyond. We needed attendees and we needed quilts. We were thrilled to be received so warmly and in a few months’ time we had our vendors and quilt entry forms started coming in.
In addition to the physical presence, we needed a virtual presence. Jim Barnette volunteered to be our webmaster and created a beautiful website. I set up a Facebook page. Darla Arter volunteered her talent as our graphic designer for printed media. Volunteers generously giving their time and talent.
Now, you might wonder, how could so few people possibly put on a quilt show? Let me tell you, the volunteers at St. Mary's and a few surrounding churches are amazing. In fact, we had over 120 volunteers! Many are not quilters, but loved the idea of welcoming people to our church. Patty Jones was the coordinator of the volunteers and their schedules. Organization at its ﬁnest! Our volunteers are the key to our success; the friendliest people you could ever meet.
We decided to reward our ﬁrst year sponsors, donors and vendors with a Gala Preview Dinner the night before the show. Shanon Salsbury and his St. Mary's Men's Club volunteers prepared a delicious dinner, and guests were treated to cocktails, a seated dinner complete with waiters. The piece de resistance - an evening preview of the church, festooned with 125 glorious quilts. Our church choir sang as our guests were overcome with emotion at the ﬁrst glimpse of our ﬁrst show. Personally, I will never forget that evening!
The next morning came, and despite threats of rain, it never rained during our show hours. Over 1300 people attended our ﬁrst show over two days. The Dresden Plate Cafe served over 600 lunches. All to rave reviews. The show was a huge success!
For our second show, St. Mary's Quilt Show 2016, on April 29 and 30, we had a few additions. We decided to have entertainment during the lunch hours. Friday was the men's Salvation Army Harbor Light Choir. Saturday was the ladies Chordbusters.
Almost all of our ﬁrst year vendors were delighted to return, and we added four new vendors. We decided to sell tickets to our Gala Preview Dinner and 72 guests were treated to a lovely seated dinner and preview of the show.
Quilt Guilds were invited to enter quilts as a group and receive recognition for their guild support. We need the support of Quilt Guilds to have exquisite quilts, and they did not disappoint. The quilting community in our area is thriving with enormous talent and the willingness to share that talent. We had 150 quilts displayed in the church and the church annex.
We added an additional display of quilts under the pavilion, Red White and Beautiful. It was energizing to see 35 beautiful red and white quilts hanging from the rafters and dancing to the breeze!
We added a Photo Op location on Father Ed's front porch, covered with quilts. Folks had a great time commemorating their day with their cell phone cameras.
We added more shuttles to assist people from the parking lot. We set up a Welcome table to assign entry times to the church to avoid standing in a long line waiting your turn. People could shop, stroll the gardens, have lunch or listen to the music while they waited.
Over 1600 people entered the church. Over 900 meals were served at the Dresden Plate Cafe. Our only problem was that too many people came at one time on Friday morning, and some could not stay for their assigned time. I know most people say too many people is a good thing, but it literally broke my heart to turn anyone away. We have plans to ﬁx that for 2017!
St. Mary's Quilt Show 2017:
At our 2017 show, over 1800 guests entered the church to see the quilts and over 1300 people enjoyed lunch at the Dresden Plate Café. Unfortunately, some people were not able to enter the church due to long wait time, but did enjoy the quilts in the pavilion, and also shopped with our fabulous vendors. We are expanding the show times to allow for more guests!
On to St. Mary’s Quilt Show 2018, April 26, 27, and 28! From 9am to 5pm. Yes three full days. To allow more people entry into the church on Saturday, Father Ed as agreed to celebrate mass that evening at St. Joseph in Stoneham. We will also expand our Gala Preview Dinner on Wednesday evening, April 25, at 6PM, to seat 96 guests.
I can tell you that producing this show is my passion. More people have come forward as volunteers and we have a great time. What a congenial group! If you have a couple of hours to spare during our show hours, get in touch with me to volunteer. We need you and I think you will enjoy being a part of the show.
We love having you visit our church. So, please, my personal invitation to support us as a sponsor or with advertising if you are able, join us for our Gala, enter your quilts, and attend our show. You will not be disappointed. In addition to experiencing a unique, exquisite quilt show, St. Vincent De Paul beneﬁts from the proceeds. Now that is a win/win!
Warmest regards, Lorraine Nilson.