By Julia Skrobak, Of The Morning Call
10:32 PM EDT, July 9, 2011
People usually pack a few dollars when heading to the Kutztown Folk Festival so they can fill up on funnel cakes, barbecue and birch beer. But those who bring their checkbooks aren't there to sample the Pennsylvania Dutch delicacies.
They come for the quilts.
Said to be the largest quilt sale in America, the festival's annual quilt auction drew a packed house Saturday as 24 of the festival's 1,600 quilts were selected for the sales block.
Though most of the quilts were made in the Kutztown area, some were sent from as far asMinnesota.
Betty Imboden, who has helped with the auction since it began 16 years ago, said in whittling the field of quilts to 20 "top honors" winners and four "best of show" awards judges assess the evenness of the stitching, the use of traditional patterns, and the overall quality and appearance.
"When the quilt opens, it should just pop," Imboden said.
The winning quilts are then assigned a starting bid.
Those bids, Imboden said, were set with a nod to the poor economy. But sales, she said, were strong.
Ed and Teresa Terry of Long Valley, N.J., purchased eight quilts during the week and successfully bid on two more — "Diamond Jubilee," featuring lots of points in primary colors, mostly blue and red, and "Oh My Stars," an earth-toned blanket of stars framed in a border of swirling vines. Teresa said it was hard to resist bidding.
"The workmanship of the quilts just blows you away," she said.
While the Terrys were thrilled with their purchases, their hearts were originally set on another quilt: "Double Farmer's Delight," which had pinwheels spinning across a creamy backdrop. They were in good company, the quilt proved to be a show-stopper, garnering the highest bid — $11,000. And while the price would make any quilter proud, it was $4,500 shy of the record. In 2005, a quilt made by Wanda Weiser sold for $15,500 and still holds the record.
Weiser, of Maxatawny Township, has been entering quilts for 11 years and has always received a "Best of Show" award. Her quilt this year, "Star Gazing," had feathered star corners and a hand-stitched quilted border. The quilt, which she started in January, took her four months to design, piece together, and appliqué.
The excitement grew as the bidding for Weiser's quilt rose quickly from the starting price of $1,250. A heated bidding war ensued until the winner walked away with it for $5,250. The veteran quilter said she was very happy with the price.
Weiser said she enjoys making quilts and is already thinking about what to enter in next year's auction . "I like to challenge myself to do something different every year," she said.
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