Paducah, KY – When Paducah officials began preparing for the twenty-fifth annual American Quilter's Society Show and Contest, they weren't sure they'd have beds for the over four hundred quilters who'd booked rooms at the Executive Inn. But even with the progress of renovations up in the air, Paducah Visitor's Bureau Director Mary Hammond was sure no one would go without a place to stay. Hammond had confidence in a program that has been finding local lodging for quilters as long as there has been a show in Paducah.
The very first year, I think they were expecting about fifteen-hundred people and ended up with about five thousand here at the quilt show. Well, that would have filled Paducah right there with our hotel inventory at that time.
Some of those people found lodging in local residents' homes through the Bureau's Home B&B program. Hammond says there are always more volunteer homes than quilters to fill them.
It's always been something that was done out of the goodness of your heart to help your community and it was done to raise money for non-profits.
Residents who lodge quilters for a fee are required to donate a portion of the proceeds to the local nonprofit of their choice. Hammond says she's not sure how many homeowners are a part of the program because the number is always fluctuating. Someone may sign up with the Visitor's Bureau and then the next year coordinate on their own with quilters.
Then also it may be that my friends who stay with me say well we've got two more people coming' and I call my next door neighbor and they keep two.
One woman who's more than familiar with the Home B&B process is retired receptionist Carol Donner. Although she's never picked up quilting herself, Donner has been hosting quilters for twenty years and says to her the practice of opening up her home to strangers comes naturally.
Over the years, my husband having been a minister, we've entertained a lot, so we've always kind of opened our house to different visiting groups, visiting choirs, so that wasn't anything unusual for us to do.
When Donner started putting up quilters, she got women from as far away as California and Germany. She gave them breakfast, provided snacks, and always told them to treat her home like their own. Over the past several years, Donner has had the same two groups stay with her every quilt show.
Each year they say, May we come back?' and we want them to come back because like I say we've just become friends now over the years and they're just delightful people.
She's such a hospitable woman and a wonderful cook.
Sherlie Hobbie is from Palastine, Texas and has been quilting for almost forty years and has been coming to the quilt show for nineteen.
I had never seen quilts. I had been quilting for some time, but I had never seen quilts the way the quilts were here. They were just beyond my imagination.
Over the past four or five years, Hobbie and friends have stayed with Donner. She says being in someone's home is much better than staying in a hotel.
We have space, we have beautiful backyard, we can walk the neighborhood. So we really appreciate that. After you've been coming back for a few years to the same house you just feel like you're coming y'know like this is home, this is comfortable.
This year around 30,000 quilters descended on Paducah for the show, roughly doubling the city's population. Carol Donner thinks Paducah's small size is one of the reason's quilters like to come back every year.
All my quilters over the years have said they love to come to Paducah because they like to be able to get out and go around town and be safe. Now a couple of the shows are in big cities and it's always downtown in an area where they can't really get out and walk around.
Quilters interact with the city and give a big boost to the local economy through shopping and eating out. Paducah officials say the Quilt Show brings in millions in revenue for the area each spring. The Home B&B Program helps keep those quilters close to the events and area attractions, and ensures they have somewhere to lay their heads after those long days of quilt block fervor.