Black White And Read All Over

Block Number: 223

McDowell News helps complete Quilt Trail


What’s black and white and read all over?

The answer to this time-honored riddle is, of course, a newspaper. And fittingly enough, it is also the title for The McDowell News’ quilt block, one of the last ones to be made and installed by the popular McDowell Quilt Trail program. The block also commemorates The McDowell News being named one of the best community newspapers in the state in the 2016 N.C. Press Association News, Editorial and Photojournalism Contest.

Thursday morning, this attractive quilt block, based on a traditional pattern, was hoisted high on the back wall of the newspaper’s building. Overlooking the city’s parking lot, it is 6 feet in size and can be seen from Main Street.

When the McDowell Quilt Trail started in the summer of 2009, The McDowell News published a feature story describing the concept and featured photographs of examples of the colorful quilt blocks. The idea was to promote McDowell with the various quilt blocks scattered throughout the county and establish a quilt trail so folks, both local residents and visitors alike, could get to know this community and its heritage better.

"The purpose of McDowell County Quilt Trail is to promote tourism; preserve history and help improve the economy in McDowell County,” reads the trail’s Website. “We are a program of the McDowell Arts Council Association (MACA). We see our blocks as community art that are connected by name or design to the history of the land, building or family that is hosting the block while bringing life to our buildings."

"I think this is one of the most clever, attractive programs I have seen in a long time," said then-Mayor Pro Tem Steve Little about the quilt trail in 2009. The McDowell News helped to promote the trail by running articles and photographs that told the story behind each new quilt block. Jill Lucas, chairwoman and founder, said the newspaper’s focus on the quilt blocks helped make the trail possible.

Since 2009, her husband Mike Lucas has built and painted the hundreds of quilt blocks that have made McDowell County more colorful and interesting. Thursday morning, he and two assistants had to use a scaffold to install the one for The McDowell News. It is located high on the back brick wall of the newspaper’s building, which overlooks the parking lot and faces towards Main Street.

For many years, The McDowell News’ masthead was painted in big letters on a black background across the top of this brick wall. But over time, it has faded away and is virtually gone.

Now, the new quilt block helps brighten up this drab brick wall. The newspaper and the quilt trail program worked together to come up with this clever use of an old riddle.

"Black, White and Read All Over" is No. 223 in the McDowell Quilt Trail. Jill Lucas said the program has 15 quilt blocks on the Rural Heritage Trail, which is a separate trail that preserves and promotes McDowell’s rural heritage. This makes for a total 238 quilt blocks.

On Thursday, she presented Editor/General Manager Scott Hollifield and the newspaper’s staff with a certificate for quilt block No. 223.

"We are honored to part of The McDowell Quilt Trail," said Hollifield, who this year celebrates his 30th year in the newspaper business. "Jill, Mike and the entire committee have dedicated countless hours to this effort and we appreciate their commitment to the community."

The installation comes shortly after The McDowell News won second place in the state for Best Community Coverage in the annual press association contest. “We are one of the smallest newspapers in our division, but the award shows that our efforts and dedication to local news are big,” said Hollifield.

This block was also made possible through a special grant program from the city of Marion. Last year, the Marion City Council unanimously approved giving 24 grants to help downtown businesses improve the look of their exteriors. The money for this effort came from a $94,340 downtown revitalization grant from the N.C. Department of Commerce. As part of this grant award, the city of Marion authorized that $10,000 of it would be used for the downtown business exterior grants program.

Pretty soon, the city got 24 applications from local business owners all wanting a grant. Their applications included ideas for new signs, awnings, outdoor sound systems and new paint on the exterior, among other proposals. City officials approved all 24 applications.

The McDowell News was one of those applicants approved by the city.

But this will sadly be one of the last quilt blocks to be installed. In February, Jill Lucas and other leaders with the McDowell Quilt Trail announced that the program would come to an end after nearly eight years. She and other leaders with the program said they felt the Quilt Trail had reached its goal. The program had “saturated” the county and they were now getting more requests for blocks outside of McDowell.

They also gave a deadline for people to order a quilt block. Mike Lucas said he’s done at least 20 since that announcement. “They have come out of the woodwork,” he said.

By the time the program is finished, there should be more than 240 quilt blocks in all. The rack cards will still be available for folks to use as guide in looking for them.

“We’ve learned a lot about McDowell County,” said Mike Lucas.

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