Minnesota Co-op Provides a Lift on Barn Quilt Trail

Jon Grenier (left) and Jason Ohrmundt of Todd-Wadena Electric Cooperative display a gift from Barn Quilts of Central Minnesota group members for the co-op’s help in hanging quilts. (Photo Courtesy: Todd-Wadena Electric Cooperative)

When it comes to community art, it helps to have friends in high places.

That’s the experience along the Central Minnesota Barn Quilt Trail, where lineworkers from Todd-Wadena Electric Cooperative have made sure that the best efforts of artists are visible far and wide.

The co-op has helped to hang large barn quilts along the popular trail that otherwise might have been obscured or hung in some nondescript location.

“They’ve been a huge asset to us. It’s just been wonderful that they have been able to do that for the members in Todd-Wadena,” said Lisa Kajer of Staples, Minnesota, co-founder of the barn quilt trail.

Despite what the name says, barn quilts are not pieces of fabric. They are quilt blocks on heavy medium-density overlay board decorated in a variety of styles. They can run 8 feet by 8 feet, meaning it is almost impossible to place them conspicuously on the side of a barn or silo without bucket truck intervention.

A Todd-Wadena bucket truck was key to hanging this quilt on the side of a barn. (Photo Courtesy: Todd-Wadena Electric Cooperative)

“It’s a very cool project,” said Allison Frederickson, member & energy services manager at the Wadena, Minnesota-based co-op. “We have a very big quilting community up here and I think that makes it pretty popular.

The Staples FFA initially produced the barn quilts for the central Minnesota trail, though that chore is now being handled by students in conjunction with the Staples Motley Area Arts Council. The trail includes 145 barn quilts across a four-county area, though the cooperative limited its work to its territory.

“We offered a couple of linemen and a bucket truck to go out in the community to help hang these barn quilts that the students had created,” said Kallie Baxter, Todd-Wadena Electric Cooperative’s marketing and communications specialist. “That commitment to community spirit is really ingrained in everything we do.”

In return, the organization presented a special present to Todd-Wadena—a 4-foot by 4-foot barn quilt in the co-op’s colors. It is called “Woven Together,” a take on Todd-Wadena’s role in the community, and it sits outside the headquarters office.

“It would have been very difficult to do it without their assistance,” Kajer said. “It was our gift to them to thank them for their help with this.”

Kajer said students will start a new round of barn quilts soon, though most of those are targeted by a downtown area and will not require use of a bucket truck. Frederickson said the co-op plans to think about ways it might enhance or publicize the trail.

“The point was to make it a tourist attraction and showcase community art. It’s a way of improving the quality of life in our community, and that’s always a top priority.”

Steven Johnson is a contributing writer for NRECA.