PONCA, Neb. | Seven years ago, Iris Dutton experienced her first barn quilt tour in Sac County, Iowa. She tucked away an inspirational memory, knowing its promise for the future.
Enter Florine Curry, if Ponca, who asked her daughter earlier this year: "Why don't we paint a mural of a farm quilt on a building downtown?"
The idea lit a figurative fire for Curry's daughter, Barbara Cox, who responded, "No, let's build the world's biggest barn quilt."
On Monday, those creative forces, which converged six months ago, culminated in a ribbon cutting on the east side of Highway 12, one-half mile south of Ponca, at the site of what may well be the "World's Biggest Barn Quilt," a monster of an eye-catcher that measures 24 feet tall by 24 feet wide, surpassing similar, but smaller efforts in Ohio and Oklahoma.
Folks representing the Guinness Foundation and their Guinness Book of World Records have been contacted to make this local claim official.
"All the way around people have embraced it," said Cox. "Folks are talking about it. And that's what I love; the fact the whole community came together for it."
The plywood barn quilt features the official Nebraska Quilt Square designed by Susan Davis for the National Park Service Centennial. The colors are greens, yellows and browns.
The effort was done just in time for the Outlaw Trail's "Highway 12 See the Byway the Quiltway" which will be held Friday and Saturday and will feature 270 miles of fabric quilt and barn quilt displays from the eastern edge of Nebraska to around Valentine. Ponca serves as one of the weekend venues, offering self-guided barn quilt tour maps for the Ponca Quilty Byway, items available at the Ponca Carnegie Public Library, Ponca Community Center and the historic Stough home owned by Ron Koch.
"We have about 200 barn quilts in our area (around Ponca) here that have gone up over the last year or so," said Dutton, a native of Ponca who lived and worked away from her hometown for 40 years before returning four years ago.
After Cox detailed her vision six months ago, the Ponca Quilt Byway Committee formed and began work on a world record that may help boost spirits in town and exposure for the community. Grants from the Better Ponca Foundation, The Ponca Area Community Club, The Dixon County Convention and Visitor's Bureau, the Bank of Dixon County and private donations helped bring the effort along. The Nebraska Public Power District donated six telephone poles to support the creation.
Artist Denise Peterson, who happens to work as the city administrator in this Dixon County community of 937 residents, drew the design and worked as several women painted it across 18 4-foot by 8-foot pieces of plywood, a working effort that consumed much of the past month at the Ponca Community Center.
Doug and Jodi Rickett donated their land as a home for the record quilt, a parcel that worked as Jodi Rickett, owner of Pigtails & Primitives in Ponca, could use a portion of her land to help promote barn quilts, one facet of her enterprise.
Helen Fleury, of Ponca, cut the ceremonial ribbon to formally introduce the quilt to travelers along Highway 12. The barn quilt, according to Dutton and Cox, is dedicated to the memory of Fleury's late husband, Russ Fleury, a 31-year member of the Dixon County Board of Supervisors who owned and operated Fleury's Market for 25 years. Russ Fleury was 91 when he died in November 2105.
It was the right thing to do, according to Dutton, noting how beloved Russ and Helen Fleury have been in and around Ponca, the result of their decades of civic activity and shared aim to make Ponca the best it can be.