They were one of the most treasured items to make the journey with pioneers on the Oregon, California and Mormon Trails and is something the community and visitors to Gering during Oregon Trail Days will get a chance to admire. Quilts served many practical and emotional purposes for pioneers traveling the overland trails in the mid-1800’s. Quilts were used as bedding, protection against the harsh elements, as burial shrouds for loved ones, to relieve homesickness and create bonds between fellow women on the trail, and even as items for trade and toll payments. While each women’s life experience on the trail was unique, there are common themes of Oregon Trail quilts such as migration and nature. Elements of quilt patterns including representational designs, geometric shapes and fabric colors were often inspired by the landscape, events and personal beliefs during the long journey westward.
Since 1992, the Panhandle Quilt Guild’s Quilt Show during Oregon Trail Days has featured the beauty, talent and creativity of the art of quilting. To celebrate the culturally significant role that quilts played in the establishment of the West and the 100th anniversary of the founding of a National Monument at Scotts Bluff, the 2019 theme for the quilt show is titled: “Quilting in the Shadow of the Monument- Then and Now.” From king size quilts to miniature wall hangings, entries into the show always include a wide variety of styles, sizes and patterns and this year will prove to be no different. The “challenge project” for this year’s show will be themed: “Happy 100th to Scotts Bluff National Monument.” Each entry must have at least one pieced quilt block associated with the Oregon Trail or pioneer quilts and include ‘100’ somewhere in the quilt, either the number 100 or 100 pieces embellished, quilted or embroidered. Suggestions given were images of wagons, the river and views of Scotts Bluff.
Quilt Show Chair, Kim Cantrel, remarks “the Panhandle Quilt Guild is excited to partner with Scotts Bluff National Monument to celebrate the history of the area we live and create in. Quilts were an important part of peoples’ travels along the Oregon Trail–they were created before and during travel for necessity and for special occasions on the journey, given as gifts in preparation for the journey, some were created as remembrances after the journey. The journey itself influenced many quilt designs that we use and admire today.” Centennial Coordinator at Scotts Bluff National Monument, Kayla Gasker, notes, “The Oregon Trails Days celebration is a big deal for Gering and western Nebraska and the reputation of the Quilt Show speaks for itself. I hope this year the community will support the amazing creations of the Panhandle Quilt Guild as they help us celebrate the pioneer spirit and quilts of the Oregon Trail.”
This year, the Quilt Show will take place at Lincoln Elementary School, 1725 13th Street in Gering. The show is open Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 12:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. and is free to the public.