Unfolding Friendship StarBlock Number: 51
“Unfolding Friendship Star”
By Terry Wilson
Since the spring of 1996, travelers through McDowell County have found the Chamber of Commerce Visitor Center in Marion to be a welcome respite from their travels. The eye-pleasing design of the buildings and the immaculate grounds have provided a rest site for thousands of travelers, both traveling through and visiting in McDowell County. A recent addition to the McDowell Quilt Trail now hangs for all to see on the beautiful stone wall of the McDowell Chamber of Commerce Visitor Center in Marion.
The “Unfolding Friendship Star” block, number 51 on the McDowell Quilt Trail, was dedicated Wednesday morning, August 18th, at the Visitor Center before an appreciative group of representatives of various local agencies and several Visitor Center volunteers. The McDowell Chamber of Commerce was represented by Rod Birdsong, Chamber Director; Kevin Griffin, 2010 Chamber Board President; Amy Johnson, Chamber Board Vice-President; and Steve Brown, 2009 Chamber Board President. Representing the North Carolina Department of Transportation at the ceremony was Kenny Wilson, Division 13 Operations Engineer.
Upon deciding to join the local quilt trail, Chamber officials embarked on a quest to select the correct quilt block pattern, a pattern that would speak of McDowell County and its residents to those who might be stopping at the Visitor Center. Janet Williams of the McDowell Quilt Tail Committee discovered the block design, and Mike Lucas, who has constructed most of the quilt blocks found in the county, created the quilt block itself.
The “Unfolding Friendship Star” pattern was chosen to represent McDowell County to all who happen to find themselves at the Visitor Center. Representing more than the physical characteristics of McDowell County, this pattern represents the warm-hearted personality so common to McDowell County. The message behind the pattern specifically speaks to the small-town nature of McDowell County and the friendliness of its citizens.
Mike, with the assistance of volunteer Martha McCauley, applied the bright array of color to the quilt block with the idea of highlighting the colors in the impressive stone wall of the Center. Assisting Mike in the complex task of hanging the block for display were B.J. Edwards, Wayne Miller, and Eddie Bingham.
Jill Lucas presented the Certificate of Authenticity, which designates this block as a block on the McDowell Quilt Trail, to Kevin Griffin, Kenny Wilson, and Rod Birdsong. This certificate will now be displayed in the Visitor Center.
This Visitor Center site is formally known as the McDowell Chamber of Commerce Visitor Center located on the US 221 Bypass on the western side of Marion. The Visitor Center was created to adjoin the Department of Transportation rest area, and was constructed simultaneously with the construction of the US 221 Bypass. The Center was financed by efforts of members of the Chamber of Commerce, McDowell County, and the McDowell Tourism Development Authority. The Center was opened on March 15, 1996, with then Governor James Hunt providing the keynote address. To date, over 334,000 visitors have taken the opportunity to visit the Center and its carefully designed grounds.
Those who visit the Center are struck by the obvious effort to showcase the natural features of McDowell County in the design and construction of the facility. Native river rock, wooden construction features, and spacious windows are all used to help showcase the aesthetics of McDowell County, and now the “Unfolding Star of Friendship” takes a prominent place in this local showcase. The color scheme of the quilt block itself was designed to highlight the local color of McDowell County - gray river rocks, lush forests, misty mountains, and vibrant flowers, which blend to create a panorama of color and shape.
Quilt Trail officials state that more and more county citizens are showing interest in displaying quilt blocks on their homes or structures. Each block is unique in design and color scheme, and can be used as a window to the heritage of McDowell County.