Goshen News, Goshen, IN

Business

March 21, 2012

Local quilt garden, mural trail growing

GOSHEN — Another garden will be added this year to the increasingly popular quilt gardens and quilt mural tour.

The Elkhart County Convention and Visitors Bureau oversees the multi-community project and announced that a garden will be added at Concord Mall. The garden will be near the existing quilt mural on the side of the mall building. The addition will mean 19 quilt gardens and 18 quilt murals will be featured on the self-guided tour, officially known as The Quilt Gardens along the Heritage Trail. The Heritage Trail runs from Shipshewana to Nappanee. It is the fifth year for the quilt gardens and mural attraction.

Despite the recent run of unseasonably warm weather that has caused the bright yellow blooms on forsythia shrubs and creamy white flowers on Bradford pear trees to pop out, the quilt gardens won’t be planted until the usual time in May. According to Sonya Nash, who oversees the marketing of the tour for the ECCVB, more than 115,000 flowers are being grown in local greenhouses and will be delivered the week of May 21. Volunteers will then use the plants to create the many quilt designs that are the common theme of the gardens.

The garden and mural tour is a growing attraction, drawing in bus tours and individuals who drive the Heritage Trail to see the gardens and then also do some shopping and browsing in local communities.

“Those downtown gardens... where people can get out and have other experiences to go along with this, is kind of what we intended,” said Jackie Hughes, public relations manager for the ECCVB.

Nash said the quilt garden tourists are not the typical retirees who visit Elkhart and LaGrange counties.

“The quilt gardens have impacted our market by providing younger people. Garden clubs are arriving Fridays and Saturdays and staying overnight,” Nash said.

She said the tourists on such tours are younger and professionals and are seeking an educational experience.

“Those gardeners go back home with a busload of plants, crafts and plans,” she said.

The attraction gets a lot of attention from bus tour companies, Nash said, in part because the American Bus Association has listed it as a top attraction the past few years.

Just how many gardens and murals will make up the tour in the future is not known. Nash said each year businesses and community groups apply for inclusion and those applications are reviewed. She said some proposed gardens don’t work out because of the location and some applicants drop out once they realize the time and expense involved is too much for them. But, there are still applications pending. She said there are so far four applications for additions to the 2013 tour.

She pointed out that the quilt gardens and murals go beyond just attracting tourist dollars to help a community.

“Everyone has put in a lot of time and energy and it has fostered so much community pride,” Nash said.

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Three Goshen elementary schools — Chandler, Chamberlain and West Goshen — are providing free meals to all students during the school year as part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Community Eligibility Provision of the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010. Nearly 80 percent of students at Chandler, 89 percent of students at Chamberlain and 78 percent of students at West Goshen already qualify for free or reduced-price lunches based on their family income. How do you feel about the new lunch program?

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