Local towns capitalizing on quilting craze

Other local towns are looking to stitch their own success by drawing tourists outside Paducah’s city limits. “We see this quilt week as more of a regional event, not just something that’s in Paducah,” said Murray Convention and Visitors Bureau Marketing Director Stephanie Butler.

30,000 people are coming to Paducah for AQS Quilt Week, but not all will be staying there. The city isn’t quite big enough to host that many people. That’s where other towns in the region are stepping in with accommodations and attractions created for the quilters.

Quilt Week kicked off at The Paducah Expo Center at nine o’clock this morning. People from all over the world came to admire award-winning large quilts, wall quilts, and see special quilt exhibits. The Merchant Mall on the main floor is described as a quilter’s shopping paradise, and the AQS School of Quilt Making offers workshops and lectures with instructors from around the world.

Each event at the expo center is detailed in a pamphlet that The Paducah Convention and Visitors Bureau put together, but there’s also a schedule of quilt-related activities in here that stretches from Wickliffe, Kentucky to Whittington, Illinois. After a day full of events in Paducah, many tourists will hit the road and travel as far as 60 miles away to other cities and towns looking to profit from Paducah’s popularity.

Crowds of quilters created an electric environment in downtown Paducah on day one of AQS Quilt Week as part of an experience that can’t be contained in just a single city. Laura Schaumburg is the Paducah CVB’s marketing director. She said, “Certainly with that many visitors, we have to rely on our neighbors.”

She said quilt week brings in $20 million to the local economy. That money spreads beyond Paducah’s borders. “Every year, we have quilters stay during quilt week,” said the Murray CVB’s marketing director.

Stephanie Butler said every hotel room in Murray is booked mostly by quilters who have come in from out of state. A portion of the money paid for hotel stays goes right back to the CVB. “We use that to promote Murray, promote tourism in Murray, and try to bring more events in that require more overnight stays,” said Butler.

That is something Hampton Inn & Suites General Manager Steve Alley says is good for business. He said, “There’s at least 10 guests in house from international locations and is say we are two-thirds full of quilters.” Many of them won’t have to look far to find displays that cover their interests.

“This is good for Murray,” said Judi Little. She designed Calloway County’s Quilt Trail and said it’s just one thing she hopes keeps tourists in town. She said, “Take a nice afternoon drive, drive around, come downtown and have some lunch. It’s just a great thing to do.”

Aside from the quilt trail, there is also a play about quilts at Murray’s Playhouse in The Park that runs thursday through Sunday. Events at Paducah’s Expo Center will continue until Saturday evening.

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