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Thursday, August 9, 2012

Judging Quilts in Cattle Country

Just north of Mora County is Colfax County where I went to judge quilts for the quilt show competition at the annual Colfax County Fair. 

Map thanks to
 Friend Shela grew up in this area, where the county fair was a big deal when she lived there. It still is, Shela, and my cowboy hat is off to the many hard working people who make it happen.

                                                      Abandoned ranch near Wagon Mound, NM
The fairgrounds are in Springer. In this part of New Mexico men wear cowboy hats and women wear t-shirts that say, "Silly boys. Guns are for GIRLS!" I am generalizing here, but several of the ladies I met at the quilt judging were both quilters and shooters. One quilter, Trudie Fay, is a champion rifle shooter, member and coach of the U.S. Rifle Team.

 The fair's program recognizes the brands of all the ranches in the area and livestock judging is an important event. For people used to really big county fairs this will seem small: One exhibit hall and one livestock barn. That's it. But people travel miles for the BBQ, rodeo, parade and kids' parade, pet show, dance, lots of food booths, exhibits, contests and other activities throughout the weekend.

And of course there's the quilt show, which is why I was there. Two able assistants guided me through the judging process and alerted me when there was a tie score. Those were the worst, because I really wanted to give two 1st prizes several times.  But that couldn't happen, so I had to be nit-picky which was difficult.

A significant number of Colfax County quilters practice the arts of hand piecing and hand quilting and their work is exquisite. Quilts were machine pieced and hand quilted, while others were done completely by machine. There were many categories and I was touched by the beginners' quilts, especially the ones done by children, because one can see their hearts and souls in those "first time" quilts.

Here are a few photos of the volunteer crew putting up the quilts in the exhibit hall after they were judged and the elaborate computer system the quilt show organizers were using to keep track of the entries, a record breaking 105 quilts.

Cowboys and computers
A system using baling twine, pants hangers, and a cherry picker, combined with volunteer muscle and ingenuity, hoists the quilts to new heights.

PVC Pipe and pants hangers hold the quilts
Judging quilts was tough because there were so many beautiful pieces and we could see how much work went into each quilt. Putting them into many classes helped, so we looked at groups of quilts with similar characteristics. My feet were tired after standing at a table looking at quilts for five or so hours, but oh, what a tough life I lead!

One thing I learned for sure was this: quilting is alive and well in  Colfax County, New Mexico, guns, girls, cowboys and all!

1 comment:

  1. Colfax County is one of the most beautiful counties on the planet. Time is slow there, moves differently than it does in the Big City (ABQ, where I now live). I miss NE NM with all of my heart and body and mind. I would have stayed there, if my boys didn't need more of an education and I didn't need a living wage. Not that you can't find either there, but it's difficult. You know.

    My fave memory of Colfax County is driving into the wilderness with the boys, on a trip to see the Whittington Center. We stopped in Maxwell, because I had to use the bathroom (sorry, TMI!) and I walked into this crazy tiny local bar. And all of the old men in there stared at me, offered to buy me booze. It was glorious. Not the staring or the promised booze. Just the life in that bar.

    Anyway, thank you so much for dropping by. It meant SO MUCH to me.


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