AMERICAN DUCHESS RIVER CRUISE: NATIONAL QUILT MUSEUM IN PADUCAH

Without a doubt, the highlight of Paducah is the National Quilt Museum.  The massive wall murals along the river depicting Paducah’s history are quite a sight as well; however, the quilts are, in one word, amazing.  More on that in just a moment…

Back to the murals, I didn’t photograph them this time, because I had done so during a previous visit.  If you are curious to see them, check out my 2017 blog post about Paducah that includes photos of the beautiful wall murals.

In that post on Paducah, you will notice something missing:  Photos of the quilts at the National Quilt Museum.  At the time, no photography of any kind was permitted, even without flash.  I was so disappointed, because the artistry in the exhibited quilts was unbelievable.

I was happy to learn that photography (without flash) would be permitted this time.  I went crazy with my camera!  Although most of the photos can be viewed in the “American Duchess River Cruise, July 2019” album on my photo sharing site, I tried to limit my selection for this post.

As you can see below, these aren’t your grandmother’s old-fashioned Colonial-era quilts that keep you warm at night.  These are works of art.  They are so incredible, that even the men from the riverboat who were dragged to the museum by their wives were saying, “Wow!” over and over again, as they viewed one phenomenal quilt after another.  Seriously.  Bruce loves this museum as much as I do!

A warning as you view these pictures:  They don’t do these quilts justice.  At all.  There is so much detail that couldn’t possibly be picked up by any camera to match what we saw in person.  These are just small pictures on a computer screen.  You really have to see the real thing.  If you ever have an opportunity to visit Kentucky, you must go to Paducah and see all of the exhibits at this wonderful museum.  Send me a message after your visit, too.

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This “quilt” is actually carved from basswood! It is on display in the conference room at the National Quilt Museum. It was created by Fraser Smith, and measures 65″ x 42″ x 4″.

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One of my favorite exhibits at the museum was of miniature quilts, measuring no more than 24″ on one side. The quilts in this glass case were the smallest on exhibit, measuring just a few inches long.

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Look closely at the work that went into sewing each of the flowers. What patience!

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The artist’s statement of this piece: “I decided making a small quilt (14-3/4″ x 21-1/4″) would be a fun, relaxing respite from my current large quilt. How long could it possibly take? I figured a few hours work for a couple of weeks. Little did I know that this fun project would take two months of working seven days week for fourteen hours a day. It was a great accomplishment to complete this quilt, but believe me it was pure joy to get back to my usual large quilts.” ~ Shirley P. Kelly, 2006

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I first saw this quilt at the museum in 2017 during our “Mighty Mississippi” cruise. It was so disappointing at the time that photography was not permitted. This time, photos were allowed without flash, so I was thrilled to be able to photograph this amazing quilt.

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This is a close-up of the previous picture.  So much detail!

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This quilt was HUGE!

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“Corona II: Solar Eclipse,” by Caryl Bryer Fallert-Gentry, measures 76″ x 94″ and is made from hand-dyed fabrics. It is machine pieced and machine quilted. It was named one of the 100 Best Quilts of the 20th Century.

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“Breeze is the third quilt in my ‘Simply Sensational’ series using architectural settings to highlight each of the five senses. Touch is the only sense that involves the whole body. For this reason, I chose a rush of wind through and open window to completely surround the dog with the awareness of this sense.” ~ Rachel Wetzler

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This was one of my favorites! “Port of Cassis,” by Lenore Crawford, measures 52″ x 48″. It was created from a photo that she took in the south of France at dusk.

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This quilt as well as the following quilts (some are close-ups of the same quilt) were created by Danny Amazonas who started out as a professional floral designer in New York City in the 1970’s. I was mesmerized by how these quilts looked like photographs when viewed from a distance.

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This was a huge mural that was several feet long and stretched across a wall.

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A close-up of a fish from the previous photo.

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Another close-up shows the pretty fabrics Danny Amazonas used to create his fish.

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A DAY “AT RIVER”

Ocean cruisers are familiar with that term “at sea,” when there is a transit day on an itinerary without a port visit.  Many experienced cruisers love those days at sea, so they can relax, enjoy being out on deck, and out on the open sea.

If cruise ships have days “at sea,” then what do riverboats have when there is no port to visit?  A day “at river,” of course!  Well, that’s what I call it, anyway.

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American Queen’s day “at river” wasn’t in the original itinerary, but as they say in life, s*&$ happens!  The night before arriving in Paducah, we were still in Cape Girardeau SEVERAL hours after our scheduled departure.  Although the passengers received some announcements along the way, we didn’t hear the full story until the captain explained what all had happened.  It was one thing after another, and the captain had us in stitches, as he comically detailed the events to us passengers in the show lounge:  First, a couple of essential crew members (who were coming on board to replace crew going on leave) were late arriving due to a delayed flight.  Next, there was a generator problem with one of the three generators.  Evidently, U.S. Coast Guard approval was necessary for the boat to continue operating on only two generators, and they weren’t exactly expedient in granting this approval.  Meanwhile, three tugboats were held up at the upcoming lock (usually it’s first come, first served), so we could get preferential treatment, and keep to our port schedule.  Since the Coast Guard was taking their sweet time returning the captain’s call, however, the tugboats were given the go-ahead to pass through the locks.  It wasn’t until 10:00 pm before we could finally depart Cape Girardeau.

But wait, there’s more!  The lock gate in the chamber broke down!  After the gate was finally repaired, and we were able to pass through the locks, you would think we were good to go.  Right?  Wrong!  The river was very narrow at that point, and we had to wait our turn to go through the narrow passage.  More delays…

To add insult to injury (at least for the captain), the water levels were reportedly too high for our boat to pass under the bridge in Canton, which meant we would not be able to stop in Dover, the day following Paducah.  As a result, the captain hesitantly announced that the American Queen would stay late in Paducah, welcome her new sister, American Duchess, and have a day “at river” the following day.  The captain braced for groans; instead, he got cheers and applause!

By now, several of the passengers (including us) were ready for a chill-day to relax, and enjoy just being on the river.  Besides, the only thing in Dover was Fort Donelson, an American Civil War battlefield.  At this point, gauging by the applause, it was evident that most of the other passengers were as burned out on the Civil War as we were.

Our day on the river was blissful:  a nice, long workout in the gym, a leisurely brunch sipping mimosas with our table mates, Jacque and Rick (Thanks, you two, for sharing your bottle!); and, an afternoon of watching the riverbanks pass by.  Steve, the cruise director entertained us that night with a fabulous piano concert of ragtime tunes choreographed to famous old-time silent movies.  The night’s finale?  Bruce jamming with Norman and Jim in the Engine Room Bar.

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Our tablemates, Rick and Jacque

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Norman, Jim, and Bruce jamming in the Engine Room Bar.  Those are Bruce’s harmonicas on top of the piano.

So, dear readers, on that note (no pun intended), as I reflect on our day “at river,” I end this blog post with some American Queen facts and river trivia:

~ American Queen is 418 feet long, 90 feet wide, and 100 feet tall with the smoke stacks raised.  She draws 8-1/2 feet of water; however, the river is only nine feet deep.

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~ Speaking of boats, a boat navigates rivers and lakes, and a ship sails upon seas and oceans.  That is the difference between a boat and a ship!

~ American Queen is the largest steamboat in the U.S.A. and was built by Delta Queen Company, in 1995.   She is constructed of steel (rather than wood, a fire hazard) to accommodate overnight passengers—a federal law.  When she was built, it was the first steamboat ever constructed at that shipyard.  It took 550 workers to get the job done, and when she was christened, the ceremony was done with a giant Tabasco Sauce bottle (rather than champagne).  Gotta love that Southern sense of humor!

~ Hornblower Cruises purchased the American Queen in 2012 when the Delta Queen company folded.

~ Her refurbished engine was from the original Delta Queen steamboat, now sitting in a shipyard, due to the fact she was made from wood and not allowed to accommodate overnight passengers.

~ American Queen now boasts a large propeller and modern propulsion system, in edition to its beautiful bright red paddlewheel.

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~ The pilot house lowers on hydraulics for bridge clearance.

~ The steam-powered calliope entertains us on every port departure, much to the delight of locals watching along the riverbanks—and me!

~ On the upper Mississippi alone, there were 22 locks that dropped a total of 390 feet.  We traveled through many more locks down the river…

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American Queen’s fabulous staff:

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Tyrone “TJ” James was our favorite.  He always had a big smile on his face, treated the passengers like gold, and made everybody around him happy!

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Kim made visiting the Front Porch Cafe such an enjoyable experience!

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Brian, the Front Porch bartender was super!  He liked Mountain Dew, so we picked up some in a few ports as our “thanks” for his great service and friendly personality!

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This is Cassie, our friendly (and fabulous!) stateroom attendant!

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We had a lot of fun with our waiter, Kirk!

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Starla and Ashton (the singing waiter) were a lot of fun, too!

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Thorsten was the tallest person on board, and staff member, Ky was probably the shortest man.  They both wanted a photo with each other!

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Thorsten and Anna Maria (along with Eva Maria), visiting from Germany, were passengers on board the American Queen

 

Coming up next:  Musical Memphis

 

 

 

 

 

 

PATCHWORK PADUCAH: HOME OF THE NATIONAL QUILT MUSEUM

There are many forms of art and craft that have always fascinated me; however, quilting never captured my interest as much as glass-work or woodwork, my two favorite mediums.  That all changed in 2006, when I saw the most amazing quilts as part of a fiber arts exhibit, at the Southwest School of Art, in San Antonio.  Sometime after that, I heard that Paducah, Kentucky was home of the National Quilt Museum.

Paducah?  This California gal had never heard of Paducah, population +/- 25,000; however, I kept hearing the name over and over, after moving to Georgia.  When Bruce and I noticed Paducah was on the itinerary for our American Queen Steamboat cruise, it piqued our interest, because of the National Quilt Museum.  If the quilts at the exhibit we had attended were that amazing, imagine how incredible they would be at a national museum!

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We made the museum our first stop, following the hop on-hop off bus tour of the artsy town that is located on the confluence of the Ohio and Tennessee rivers, halfway between St. Louis and Nashville.

As soon as we walked into the lobby, we knew this wasn’t just your grandmother’s quilt museum!  There are not enough adjectives to the describe the quilts we saw, and if photography (flash or otherwise) had been permitted, the pictures wouldn’t have done those quilts justice.  Go ahead and check out their website, though; you will be amazed!  Glancing at the current exhibit, you will think those are paintings hanging on the wall.  You can’t possibly imagine the thousands of hours that went into making some of those quilts, obviously labors of love.

I did, however, take pictures (with permission) of the gorgeous stained-glass windows in the lobby and conference room:

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Visiting the National Quilt Museum was not only the highlight of our day in Paducah, but it was one of the highlights of the entire cruise.  Those sentiments were echoed by Bruce as well as several of the other men we spoke with on our cruise.  (Even the men who were dragged to the museum by their wives were enthusiastic about what they saw and happy they went along!)

Aside from the museum, the entire town of Paducah had such a cool, artsy vibe.   As a matter of fact, UNESCO designated Paducah as the world’s seventh City of Crafts and Folk Art, in 2013.  (Santa Fe, New Mexico is the only other American city given such a designation.)

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In addition to the artistic feel of the town, great care has been taken to preserve the historic buildings of Paducah.  As a result, twenty blocks of the downtown commercial district have been placed on the National Register of Historic Places.P1140621.JPG

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Paducah also did a great job of beautifying their formerly drab flood wall with murals designed and painted by Robert Dafford and his crew.  We enjoyed learning about Paducah’s history through these murals, just as we had done in Cape Girardeau.

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Walking around downtown was such a pleasure, and we enjoyed seeing the historic (and beautifully maintained!) homes nearby.

American Queen Steamboat Company’s marketing department definitely got it right when they chose Paducah as the meeting point for American Queen and the company’s third riverboat, American Duchess.  On its inaugural river cruise, the brand-new Duchess arrived before sunset and tied up just ahead of our boat.  It was a beautiful evening that couldn’t have been planned any better.  As the passengers from both boats waved, shot photos, and shouted greetings, the Queen welcomed her sparkling new sister with several loud steam-horn blasts and a calliope concert.  It was a travel brochure moment for American Queen’s marketing department, and we were sure the drones that were sent up captured some amazing shots!  We sure had a lot of fun, too!

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Although several of the crew and passengers went over to tour the Duchess, we opted to enjoy another fabulous dinner in the dining room, and wait until January to see the new girl in town.  (More to follow next month!)

Until then, here are some scenes from that Kodak moment, reminiscent of when the American Queen, Mississippi Queen, and Delta Queen met up in Paducah in 1996, as was depicted in one of the wall murals (above).

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Coming up next:  A DAY “AT RIVER”