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Summer starts

These are dates you surely should remember. The Eureka Montana Quilt Show is August 4th this year.  As always this event decorates the entire town with beautiful quilts up and down main street but the Historical Village is really where the action happens.  Vendors, a display of mini quilts, quilts on all the buildings and the museum open with its own selection of quilt sales offer a lot to chose from.  IMG_2219

Shakespeare in the Parks comes to the Historical Village on August 21 with “Othello.”  The play starts at 6:00pm and box dinners go on sale at 5:00pm.  This event is always a lovely way to spend the evening so bring a blanket or a chair and get ready for some awesome theater.  As always, the play is free to the public.  Sunburst Community Service Foundation brings in Shakespeare in the Parks annually with help from Lincoln Electric Coop, Interbel, donations from the community and box dinner sales that evening.

Both fantastic events that are available to anyone to enjoy.  Both take place on the Historical Village grounds which are a delight in the summer with the soft grass and shady trees.  As always volunteers strive to keep everything well maintained for locals as well as out of town visitors to enjoy.  The Great IMG_2620Northern caboose just had major renovation.  The museum is getting some roof repairs.  The playground equipment and latrines are in fine working order. And Bev has lined out docents who have the Village buildings open everyday until early September from 1:00 – 5:00pm.

It just doesn’t get much better does it?  Life in the Tobacco Valley is pretty sweet this time of year so take a morning or afternoon or evening to wander through the Historical Village grounds.  Or come for one of the awesome events that will take place.  Hope to see you there.

 

 

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Ageism

I suppose it is no surprise a tinge of ageism creeps in when quilting with this group of women.  Our ages stretch from mid sixties to mid nineties.  Besides piecing, hand quilting and putting on bindings, these women also set up wooden quilt frames which are large enough to hold a queen size quilt.  They schlep boxes with fabrics and other odds and ends when there is a rummage sale.  They schlep boxes of books when there is a book quilterslinesale. They move furniture around in the museum as needed, set up displays and archive the treasures.  They trim bushes on the grounds, pick up trash and shovel snow – whatever the season requires.  They keep accounts, run membership campaigns, and sell raffle tickets.  They oversee construction projects in the Historical Village and often do some of these projects themselves.  Two of the quilters recently helped to replace broken slats in the boardwalk.

When there is work to be done, especially this time of year, we look around at our ranks and wonder where some younger people are.  Not so much because we can’t manage, but because it seems there are things young people might learn about maintaining their valley’s heritage and running a museum, picking up skills along the way such as grant writing and chinking an old log building. And this is where ageism slips out, while sitting over the quilt stitching. Remarks are made about ‘those’ people who spend too much screen time, or time constantly checking messages on their phones.  Or those people who say they would like to help out but it is just too difficult for them to find time on a Wednesday morning or a Saturday afternoon or any other time when help might be needed at the Historical Village.

Thus that tricky sneer of ageism, the shrug of shoulders, the roll of eyes at the group – those young people – who are summarily dismissed.  And of course it isn’t true as of course there are some young people who do make an effort, who do show up.  Magdalena, delightfully middle aged, stepped up to help on a regular basis at the museum.  Madison, who  graduates from high school this June, is bringing a group of her high school friends over next week to weed. But as some of the current quilters started helping at the Historical Village back in the 1970s, they wonder where the young people are who will pick up the torch to carry it forward.  And young doesn’t necessarily mean teens or twenties. Middle aged is fine for learning the skills we can teach, or bringing skills already honed.  As we keep our eyes open for individuals willing to step up, ready to take the torch, we also are going to try hard not to fall prey to ageism.

 

 

The wonders

This quilting season is nearly over. Only a few more weeks and the old school house will be transformed into part of the museum.  Tourists will reminisce about the small wooden desks, the old maps showing countries that no longer exist.  Children visiting will pull hard on the rope to ring the school bell high up in the belfry.  Volunteer docents will open the historical buildings everyday from Memorial Day through Labor Day.  The quilters will take a break from their Friday routine.  Some will continue to sew at home. Others will put their energy into gardening.  And of course with summer in Montana, IMG_2571there are always plenty of out of town guests.

Although there is a symmetry to the quilting that happens every Friday from September til May, there are also changes.  Renata had the awesome idea to display quilts in the old church over Rendezvous weekend.  We received many compliments and one of the quilts sold.  A few new people to town have become great volunteers to help with displays in the museum and to help keep the grounds neat.  Bev is taking over scheduling docents for the museum. No easy feat to have a schedule that includes having someone knowledgeable to work there every single day of summer.  Dianne and a few others are putting together a mass mailing – the first time we have done anything like this.  We know we need to find more support for keeping the buildings in good shape, for having volunteers help with projects, for paying bills.

Often we roll our eyes – how many times do we need to explain that Lincoln County owns the land under the Historical Village, but the buildings, grounds and upkeep are managed by the Tobacco Valley Board of History? Since the 1970s, a stalwart group of volunteers have kept this lovely area of Eureka in tact.  Items are carefully archived. Old photos filed. Questions answered when someone stops by to ask about the early days.

As you attend Shakespeare in the Park or the Eureka Montana Quilt Show this summer (both events held at the Historical Village), appreciate the grounds, this lovely public space that is so valuable to our community.  Consider some small way you might help us maintain it.

 

Picking up speed

Yes, the snow is nearly melted in our valley.  There are still patches under trees and on the north side of the old school house but otherwise we see bare ground, mud puddles and a few spring flowers pushing through.  The women are hard at it trying to get the current quilts finished by the end of April.  That is when things shift for us into the next season.

On April 28, it is Rendezvous in Eureka which mean vendors fill the Historical Village grounds and there is the largest parade of the year down main street.  The old school IMG_2278house will be transformed from the place we quilt all winter into a book sale.  Stop by if you are in town to pick up some great bargains. Then in May school children take their annual trip to visit the museum. We also have a rummage sale, another opportunity for bargains and to get raffle tickets for a lovely quilt we made.  And finally on May 26, the Historical Village announces the summer season.  Everyday until Labor Day, volunteer docents will open all the buildings and are available to provide information to visitors from 1:00 – 5:00pm.

So now we are trying to get the last quilts finished up.  Jana, a guest from the Czech Republic, has been joining us to learn how to quilt and to share her travel adventures with the women as they sew.  Cathryn created a pile of new baby quilts that are perfect to welcome little ones to the world. Sally made some lovely children quilts that are for sale in the museum along with our full size tied quilts and, of course, the beautiful hand quilted ones.  If you are in town for Rendezvous or just ambling through the Historical Village grounds on a sunny afternoon, stop by to learn about our valley’s history and perhaps purchase a quilt to support this remarkable space.

Thank you Eureka!

This past Friday it snowed. A lot. And it didn’t look good. It wasn’t just the fact that most of us are tired of winter by this point, but the concern that bad roads might hamper people coming to the fundraiser in Trego on Saturday afternoon.  Saturday though dawned better with a bit of sun and so our anticipation became more optimistic.  But you never know do you with these community events if there will be enough people, if its possible to even make the costs of putting the thing on let alone raise funds to help support the Historical Village?  On top of the weather and other unknowns, there were questions about the event itself. We hadn’t really done anything quite like this before. A concert with a band from out of the area (actually The Wardens are from Canada so out of the country!) with a potluck and community jam to follow.  We had decided to do it in Trego because the hall there is so nice with great acoustics and a large kitchen, plus enough space if we did get a real turn out.  But would we? Would people drive from Eureka on snowy roads to support the Historical Village and enjoy this potentially great event?IMG_2226

Al went out early that day to get a fire going so the hall would be warm.  He also plowed the parking lot (thank you so much!).  The band arrived around 1:30 to start setting up.  Quilters and John Linn came a little later to hang quilts and set up tables for selling some handmade items.  With the concert scheduled to begin at 4:00pm, one might hope people would start to show up at 3:30ish but it started very slow.  Finally around 3:45 cars began to pull in and then more cars.  We had to set up extra chairs.  When people were still coming through the door at 4:00, the band decided to start a few minutes late.  What a fabulous turnout!  Over seventy people came to listen to great music, potluck with neighbors and then hang a bit for the jam.  Some people played music, some danced, some talked with friends, some met new people, some tried new foods (Dawn’s outrageous Bhutan momos).

It isn’t only the wonderful turn out but the energy people brought to the event that made it such a great evening.  Lots of laughter and hugs.  We sold a quilt and a box of Mary Louise’s homemade chocolates.  Some folks generously wrote checks to support the Historical Village.  Others asked for information to learn more about the Tobacco Valley Board of History.  And the help that made this all possible!  From John climbing his 10′ ladder to hang quilts to Mike washing dishes and Mircea mopping the floor.  Everyone pitched in to set up chairs and then at the end of the evening, to put chairs away.  Ray got the jam circle going, Ed helped the band carry their things out to the van, Patty and Darrell took trash bags to the dumpsters.  What a special evening…what a special community.  Thank you, Eureka!

Not all quilters are the same

As the women at the Historical Village hand quilt, we realize we are different from those who do machine quilting. We don’t have an attitude about it.  We simply see it as two variations on a theme.  There are those who like to sew patterns by hand and there are those who like to create their magic with a sewing machine.

Despite my six years with the hand quilters, I must admit that was the only dstinction I thought about when it came to quilting. Yes, there were quilts with countless small pieces in intricate designs compared to others that are more traditional log Processed with MOLDIVcabin or bear paw patterns.  As I am fairly new (some of the original quilters in this group began sewing in the old school house back in the1970s), I sew where I am told, the design I am given and try my hardest to make small even stitches.

Then a few weeks back someone suggested we each put together three 12 inch blocks which then could be built into a lovely quilt. Sally went through all our boxes of fabric picking out those she thought went well together.  These were laid out so each of us could take the amount needed for our individual squares. Then the discussion began.  Most of the women examined the fabrics, picked up some of this and some of that, talked about which patterns they would use for their blocks and they were ready  A few brave souls declared they were not going to make blocks, they hadn’t signed on for that.  Period.  And so a few of the block-making talented women said they would each make six blocks to make up the difference.

And then there were two of us who looked like deer caught in the headlights. Make a quilt block?  I hand stitched what I was told to do but now I was expected to actually put together a block of pieces and have them lay flat and have their corners match?  Dianne and I grumbled about it while quilting that day.  But at the end of the day, we both picked up fabric to take home.  After all, this was a project for the Historical Village.  We were adults who had access to YouTube and books. Surely we would mange.

Dianne’s blocks turned out beautifully.  The corners were mitered perfection. She quietly told us the names of the patterns she used.  We sighed in delight. I will admit that I did not use a pattern. I did not even look at a book with suggestions. I did make three blocks. I just started sewing hoping for the best.  When I got to the old school house, I buried my blocks deep in the pile.  But of course when the women went through the pile later to begin laying them out, they found mine which someone kindly called ‘free form’.  Mary Louise told me straight lines and neat corners could be boring.  I felt a bit like a grade school student bringing home art for the refrigerator.

We currently are stitching a couple other quilts. I suspect it will be spring or even the fall before we get around to quilting this one.  I have no doubt it will be lovely though.  And special with most of us represented in our own way and yet part of a larger whole.

 

A touch of blue

This time of year in northwest Montana, any glimpse of blue sky has everyone smiling.  Even while focused on stitching, the women look up in unison when light through the old school house windows gets slightly brighter with a break in the clouds.  January not only brought us a few snatches of sun, but also three new Tobacco Valley Board of History volunteers. Not quite enough for all that needs to be done but certainly a good start.  Magdalena is new to the area and a great fit for helping with displays as she wants to learn more about local history.  Michelle has the energy to help out with the grounds and the shrubbery once we get into spring.  Ya’aqov, a retired librarian, is learning to maintain the archives from Cathryn. And having these three awesome individuals step up, encourages us to think there just might be others in the community who want to help maintain our local heritage.DianneQuilt

Perhaps though people have other ideas about what to do with their spare time? Maybe they see maintaining artifacts, photographs and historical buildings from the Tobacco Valley as frivolous.  Why think about the past when there are sufficient worries for the present? And don’t even mention the future!  But our past has a lot to offer, not only to school children who come each spring to visit the exhibits or the tourists who pass through on summer afternoons, but to all of us.

Some locals lament about lack of business in the area and how the town is going to dry up.  The old newspapers in the Historical Village files tell of the same sentiment numerous times throughout the town’s history. But there has always been something new that came along.  Eureka was once the Christmas tree capital and there was logging.  There were the years when the Libby dam and the train tunnel were built that brought many new people and jobs to this area.  There were opportunities and change and dry spells and then new opportunities appeared.

The files show how the Tobacco Valley News, our local newspaper that still comes out weekly, got started.  There are articles telling about how the valley first got internet and the volunteers who helped set it up.  A computer shop now occupies the building where the office supply store used to be (a business now farther up the road in a larger space), and the same building that used to house the newspaper (which moved behind the bank).  Things change for sure but there are things to be learned from the changes.  How can we make transitions easier?  Where do new ideas for our town come from?  How have great additions to the valley come about in the past?  What can we use from those experiences to continue to make this a place where we want to be?