Quilt and Fibre Art Festival
Waterloo Region & Beyond
(Formerly the Waterloo International Quilt Festival)

NOTE: The Waterloo County International Quilt Festival has now been reorganized and renamed. It is now officially known as the Quilt and Fibre Festival Waterloo Region & Beyond and their website is http://www.stjacobs.com/html/St.JacobsQuilt.Please visit their website to find out more about this year's event..


by Festival Nomad, Gary McWilliams

Road Trip…

We’re off again and another beautiful sunny day! We are heading west on Hwy. 401to the Waterloo County International Quilt Festival. Our first stop is, of course, for coffee (Tim’s). What is a road trip without a fresh coffee to set the mood? First, however, we have to cross through Toronto. Fortunately it’s a Saturday morning and the traffic isn’t too bad. We made it through with only our sanity damaged! The trouble with longer trips is that we seem to want to get to our final destination by taking the fastest and shortest route. By doing this means we miss a lot of really great towns, villages and country side. Today is going to be different. A number of years ago we visited a small town, Campbellville, located just west of Milton. I remembered Campbellville as a charming little town with quaint artisan shops. We exited Hwy 401 at Guelph Line and headed south. Campbellville was there, but the quaint artisan shops were gone. In their place was a large complex consisting of an oak furniture store, restaurants and a genealogy store. The restaurants were closed. Disappointed that the artisans were gone, we decided to go into the genealogy shop to have a look around. What a great find! This store has everything you would ever need to find out about your family history, or in my case, everything I wouldn’t want to find out. My grandfather ran off with a woman from Haldiman Township leaving his wife with 10 children to look after. I asked my mother if me father knew about this piece of family history and she replied icily “that they didn’t talk about it!”. In talking with the lady at the store, I found out that the artisan had left several years ago and were replaced by the restaurants. Unfortunately, the restaurant had just recently gone out of business, so the whole area has been left in limbo. I believe they should try to bring back the artisans. It was such fun to visit them. The lady did say that their downtown business association was trying to find events to attract visitors. I hope they do. Leaving Campbellville, we headed north on the Guelph Line. Just north of the 401 is the Mohawk Raceway and Slots. Continuing north, we past the Streetcar & Electric Rail Road Museum. Open only on the weekends, it has an amazing array of electric vehicles. Finally we reached Hwy. 7 and turned west towards Guelph. Guelph was one of the first planned communities, founded on St. George’s Day, April 23rd, 1827. Guelph’s population is now over 127,000. We traveled through the centre of Guelph and reached the outskirts after winding our way through a maze of streets. Waterloo County is made up of scenic farms (Mennonite) and charming villages.

Mennonite Country…

How beautiful and tranquil can a scene be? Just travel through Mennonite Country and you’ll find out for yourself. The farms that line the country roads are amazing! The history running through this area is the history of our early settlers. The horse drawn carriages remind you of gentler times. Times when neighbours not only knew each other, but actually helped one another in times of need. The Mennonites still believe and practice this way of life! The sights and smells of the countryside are mesmerizing, so much so that Judi and I lost (well, I lost) our sense of direction. Fortunately I Had lived in the area for a few years, so with a left turn here and a right turn there, we able to find our way back to area known. We past through quaint villages, Marysville & Conestoga, to reach our chosen destination of St. Jacobs. St. Jacobs is located just north of Kitchener/Waterloo and is one of the charming towns in the area. Once a centre of Mennonite life, it now attracts thousands of tourists annually to its fine shops, restaurants and one of Canada’s largest year round farmers markets. We arrived just in time for lunch, so we park our car and headed for my favourite St. Jacobs restaurant, the Stone Crock. Years ago, when I lived in Waterloo, a group of us ate lunch here almost every day. The soups and pies are amazing! After a great lunch we were ready to tackle the Quilt Festival…

St. Jacobs… the Quilt Capital!

You could really tell that St. Jacobs was at the fore front of the festival. Most of the building handrails and the garbage receptacles had little quilt squares attached to them. There were a number of official sites and a few “not” official sites. Since there was a lot to see throughout the county, we had to pick and choose what sites we went into. First I should tell you that the Waterloo County International Quilt Festival is made up of a number of independent locations located throughout Waterloo County. The locations range from Fergus in the northeast to Stratford in the southwest and a lot of locations in between. Due to time and distance restraints, we bypassed Fergus this trip. Our first stop as mentioned previously was St. Jacobs. From the Stone Crock we walked north to The Mill. The first site we visited was in the silo part of the Mill Complex. There was no cost to visit this site. We then went to the Church Theatre. The cost to enter was $5.00 each. This included viewing all the quilts and being served tea and goodies in the basement. Well worth the price of admission. Most of the sites charging an entry fee where doing it for charity. Although there were other sites to visit in St. Jacobs, we decided to move on… plenty more to see. Our next stop was to be at the Farmers Market located between St. Jacobs and Waterloo. We couldn’t find the site, so we moved on to Waterloo.

In Between the Quilts…

We are now off to Waterloo. The main Waterloo festival site in is located in the RIM Park Complex which is on the eastern outskirts of the city. This is the most ambitious portion of the festival. The price to enter is $18.00 per person, but it is a multi-day pass to all of the RIM events. They include: the Ontario Juried Quilt Show with submissions from across Canada; the World Piece Quilt Exhibit with quilted pieces from around the world; the Quilt Festival Merchant Mall with over 40 merchants participating and the Youth Quilt Block Challenge where viewers determine the winners of the Challenge. From Waterloo we traveled to Kitchener. Their main exhibit is located in the downtown area at the Kitchener-Waterloo Art Gallery. Here there are over 70 works of quilt art from artists across Canada. Pressed for time we hurried off west towards Stratford. Our first stop is New Hamburg. Unfortunately we are 2 days early for the 41st Annual New Hamburg Mennonite Relief Sale and Quilt Auction. It’s held on Friday and Saturday at the New Hamburg Arena and Fairgrounds. Continuing westward, we stopped in Shakespeare and visited The Quilt Place. An interesting quilt store that carries hundreds of different quilting fabrics and supplies. Upstairs they feature a display of local quilts. Now it's time to move on to one of my favourite cities, Stratford.

Stratford… Our Final Quilting Destination!

I love visiting Stratford. I am never disappointed with he charm and beauty of the city. Before trying to locate the Stratford Quilt Festival site, we decided to take a detour along Lakeside Drive past the famous Stratford Festival Theatres. Stratford was one the first and most successful arts festivals in Canada. Its four theatres operate seven months a year and while they concentrate on Shakespeare’s plays, they feature a number of other playwrights every year. Lakeside Drive parallels Victoria Lake. Today we saw Pontoon Boats, Swans, Dragon Boats and Mallards. The beauty of the park that surrounds the lake and abuts the theatre grounds is always mesmerizing. It's now time to leave this amazing park behind and find the Quilt Festival site. This portion of the festival is located in downtown Stratford. The cost to enter is $7.00 per person. The proceeds go towards Breast Cancer. "The Quilt" showcases 150 donated quilts from across Canada. It is open from May to November. This was our last stop. It’s getting late and time to head home. We take Hwy #8 back to Kitchener and the head south to Cambridge and Hwy. 401. Unfortunately, Cambridge was another site we missed this year. We really enjoyed the Waterloo County International Quilt Festival. The quilts were simply breath taking. The amount of work and skill to produce these magnificent works of art is mind boggling. The Quilt Festival itself was well run, but a little disjointed. As a first time attendee, I would have like to see more strategically placed signage. I think there could have been better linkage between sites. A generic map was given to us in St. Jacobs, but I think a specific Festival Map would be much more appropriate. Finally, we tried to see as much of the festival as possible in one day, but to really appreciate the festival and get its full benefit 2 to 3 days would be much better. Grateful thanks to all who helped us along the way.