OWATONNA — For last four years, Naomi Jirele of Owatonna has enjoyed instructing a barn quilt workshop through various community education programs around Southern Minnesota.
While in Wisconsin visiting a friend, Jirele saw an example of the painted wood quilt block on the side of a building at the local fairgrounds.
“I thought, ‘That needs to happen here,’” Jirele said in reference to the Steele County Free Fair. “And with the 100-year anniversary of the fairgrounds, what a perfect opportunity. There should be something on the grounds to recognize that.”
With her idea in mind, Jirele reached out to friends Helen Mrozek of Owatonna and Renee Holms of Ellendale to see if what she envisioned was in fact possible. After the team of women worked out some logistics, Jirele proposed her idea to the Fair Board.
After proposing to create an 8-foot-by-8-foot barn quilt for a building on the fairgrounds, the Fair Board members agreed it would be the perfect way to commemorate their history in the current location. They unanimously agreed on the idea, tentative on some tweaks and suggestions from the board.
For the last two months, Jirele and her partners have been diligently painting away on five planks of wood underneath the grandstand, that will eventually come together and form a 10-foot-by-10-foot barn quilt to hang permanently on the left side of the grandstand ribbon.
“I have only ever done a 4-by-4 before,” Jirele laughed. “So this is by far the biggest one I’ve ever done.”
The fair purchased all the materials necessary to create the art, but Jirele stated that the crew of women gladly donated their time to create it.
“I just love giving to the community,” she said. “It’s getting to that point now where I am just anxious to see it up there.”
With the start of the fair less than two weeks away, Jirele said that the barn quilt will be completely finished by next Tuesday. She added that she is unsure of when the fair will hang it up for the public to see.
There is a chance that the barn quilt honoring the 100-year anniversary at the current fairgrounds will not be the only one Jirele commissions for the fair. Jirele said that there have been some conversations about creating a second barn quilt on the 150th anniversary of the Steele County Free Fair in 2021. The overall idea would be to have the second barn quilt hang on the right side of the grandstand ribbon, though Jirele said that there has been no official decision as of now.
“We will just have to see what this looks like,” Jirele said with a smile. “But something like this belongs at the fair.”
The 2018 Steele County Free Fair kicks off on Tuesday, Aug. 14.