Bittersweet Road Trip: Long Beach International Quilt Festival

Long Beach Logo

It’s bittersweet because it’s the last one, folks. That’s right. After this weekend, the short-lived International Quilt Festival in Long Beach will no longer exist. And personally, I completely understand why.

This poor show, started by Quilts Inc. around 2008 (I’m digging in my memory banks here, so forgive me if I’m a year off) had the misfortune of launching right when our U.S. economy started lurching. The first year was filled with excitement, ┬ábut some logistical challenges may have turned some visitors and vendors away.

Those challenges–namely the convention organizers not realizing that when quilters come to a show they come hungry, needing extra women’s facilities and in huge masses–were quickly and efficiently rectified by none other than Karey Bresenhan, co-founder of Quilts Inc. and one of our quilting pioneers. Like a batting-armored knight charging in on a quilted white scooter, Karey took the higher-ups at Long Beach to task for NOT listening to her staff’s warnings about how a Quilts Inc. show attracts the threaded throngs and within 24 hours the situation was made all better.

I was there that night at an art quilter’s event when the charming and calm Karey recounted the conversations of the day in her delightful Texas drawl and underplayed with her characteristic charm about how these issues would not be repeated in subsequent years. I vowed right then to always be on this wonderful woman’s good side!

But, that first day was about as hellacious as having to rip out a whole quilt’s quilting stitches!

Long Beach International Quilt Festival 2010--The throngs are waiting!

Long Beach International Quilt Festival 2010–The throngs are waiting!

Still, there was potential. Finally there was a Southern California regional quilt show option besides Road to California. And no, I’m am NOT dissing Road in any way, shape or form. I’ve enjoyed it for years and will continue to. But, I’m also a dedicated quilt show slut (yes, I used that word) and can really never have enough options for spreading my Visa around to out-of-the-area vendors.

By the next year, the crowds had thinned somewhat and the purchases even more. My unscientific survey of the many vendors I knew at the show, coupled with my many years’ experience in evaluating the depth of purchases my sister quilters made, led me to determine that while the enthusiasm hadn’t waned, the financial resources had. (There’s a formula for this: take the weight of the bags carried and multiply that number by the amount of bags and add that to the number of trips to the underground garage to stuff said bags into the trunk and you’ll come up with the Dedicated Quilter Quotient -DQQ).

The following year, the vendors, now concerned themselves with the cost of vending at a show and their own financial struggles to stay on top of the officially pronounced Recession, held back. They lessened the amount of inventory they bought for the show, or they didn’t come at all. And here’s the thing about us quilters, whether we’re selling or buying, we have long memories for our show experiences and sometime unfairly apply an older experience to a current decision to attend.

And that, in my professional show hopping experience, is what happened at Long Beach to lead to the sound business decision (given the circumstances) to basically move it and change it up some.

Instead of renewing their contract to do a 2014 show, Quilts Inc. created a new show. Next August, Quilts Inc. will unveil the Quilt! Knit! Stitch! show in Portland, Oregon. This new approach comes from a sane response to the growing variation in our stitching demographic. Today’s quilters are really not just quilters. We’re knitters and sewists and fabric hounds and we love to play with our fibers and fabrics. By expanding the purview of the show–which has been happening under the heading of “quilt” anyway for years–Quilts Inc. acknowledges that there’s more to what we do than getting 12 stitches to the inch. I might even have to make the trek north to see this in action!

For this weekend, though, I’m going to enjoy visiting my Q-buds and work on some blog posts for my other love, Generation Q Magazine. My dearest Vicki Tymzcyszyn will be a team member for Charlotte Angotti’s Iron Quilter Challenge on Saturday night. I will be reporting on the antics found there as three teams compete for the title of Iron Quilter. It promises to be hilarious!

If you’re coming our way, find me on the convention center floor. I’d love to say hi! And yes, I will try to post some pics next week from Festival.

Many quilted hugs