Quilts take center stage at Lodi Ag Fair
LODI — It was Wednesday night, the eve of the Lodi Agricultural Fair’s opening, and a group of women were busy piecing together one of the fair’s premier exhibits.
There were 124 quilts entered in the open class quilt show, and each of them had to be measured and tagged for judging on Friday.
Having that many quilts in the exhibits — all sizes, all colors and any number of different patterns and fabrics — is par for the course at the Lodi Ag Fair, which continues through Sunday at the fairgrounds in Lodi.
Belinda Zeman of Lodi is a member of both the Fair Board and the Lodi Valley Quilters’ Guild.
There are actually two times during the fair, she said, when quilts take center stage.
One is in the open class exhibit, where each quilt entered must have been made in the last two years.
The other is the Quilt Turning, scheduled for 3:30 p.m. Saturday in the free tent, in which vintage quilts, some of them a century or more old, are displayed on a hand-rotated rack.
It was the open class that was the focus of attention on Friday afternoon.
Judging started at 9 a.m., and wasn’t completed until about 1 p.m.
But the judges who award the ribbons aren’t the only ones charged with sizing up the quilt entries.
Zeman said fair spectators are given the opportunity to vote for their favorite quilts in the open class, in a variety of categories, such as prettiest, the quilt you would most like to give away and the quilt you would most like to have on your bed.
Cheryl Eggert of Lodi had a foot-high pile of quilts to deal with on Wednesday, including her own — one with a hosta pattern, in various shades of green.
Zeman said a lot of entrants truly don’t care whether or not they win a ribbon.
“I just like to show my work,” she said.
Les Schultz of Rock Springs can attest to that.
An over-the-road semi-tractor-trailer driver by trade, Schultz uses his time at home to quilt, because it helps him relax after hours on the highways.
On Friday, as he helped with hanging the quilts for public display, Schultz scratched his head a bit to recall whether any of the quilts he’d entered had won any ribbons this year.
“I think I got two second-places and a third,” he said. “Nope. It doesn’t matter to me. That’s why I quilt — for the love of it.”
In the Junior Exhibit Hall, 15-year-old Mathew Karls had an exhibit that would be an ideal place to display a handmade quilt.
It’s a bed. A queen-size bed. It’s Mathew’s bed, and Mathew, a member of the Waunakee Whirlwinds 4-H Club, spent about 120 hours building it.
When the junior exhibit judge, James Barthel of Oshkosh, examined Mathew’s work, he noted how his hand-work on the oaken bed was even and precise, and how Mathew had gone to the trouble of finishing even the slats designed to support the mattress.
The headboard includes two levels of built-in bookshelves on each side, and a built-in power strip for an alarm clock and the two reading lamps on top.
When Barthel made his decision, Mathew himself got to affix the blue ribbon to the entry tag on the side of his bed.