After 25 years, Green Lake quilt auction bigger than ever

Asked if the handed-down tradition of quilting was a dying art, Jackie Grothe of the Green Lake Bible Camp near Spicer said no, it's just the opposite.

A closeup photo shows stitching details found on some of the quilts created for this year's Green Lake Bible Camp quilt auction. Tribune photoby Ron Adams

Asked if the handed-down tradition of quilting was a dying art, Jackie Grothe of the Green Lake Bible Camp near Spicer said no, it's just the opposite.

"It's not a lost art. It's an expanding and building art," she said. So far, the camp has received 225 donated quilts from churches and individuals for its annual quilt auction on Saturday. That's likely the most since the auction's inception 25 years ago, said Grothe, the camp registrar and quilt auction coordinator.

The tradition started when former camp director Dean Larson wanted new quilts for the camp's beds, said Dave Eliason, the Bible camp's executive director. He enlisted churches affiliated with the camp to donate handmade quilts for the cause.

In 1985, the camp held its first quilt auction with 212 quilts sold at a combined total of more than $17,000. Last year, the auction raised more than $75,000 for the camp, said Eliason, with the priciest quilt going for $5,000.

Last year's sales accounted for about 10 to 15 percent of the camp's annual expenses, he estimated. That, in turn, keeps the camp's fees accessible to more families.


"It helps with the costs and to keep the fees low," said Eliason.

Over the years, the quilts submitted for auction have gone from relatively low-key designs to much fancier and more elaborate displays. A friendly competition between participating churches has developed over the years, according to Eliason.

"The first few years, they were fairly ordinary," he said. "Then one church went all out, and the others said, 'hey, we should be doing that too.'"

Contrary to the image of quilting as a hobby relegated to the elderly, the auction organizers said the quilters who submit their work come from multiple generations. A teenaged boy from a local church even did some sewing work on a quilt this year, said Sonya Erickson, the camp's administrative coordinator.

Still, many of the quilters have inherited their hobby from a long line of quilters before them. Opal Johnson, who was handing off the quilt made by the congregation of New London's Peace Church at the Bible camp last Thursday, has been involved with the quilt auction since the beginning. She's been quilting on her own even longer.

Johnson said that growing up, she, her mother and six sisters quilted out of necessity. The fruits of their labor kept them warm through the long, cold winters.

Today, with modern home heating and down comforters readily available at the nearest store, the hobby is more of a natural stress reliever.

"Some people just like it," she said. "I think it's very relaxing."

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