Houston’s International Quilt Show cancels massive event at GRB

The International Quilt Festival logo on a quilt background.
The International Quilt Festival logo on a quilt background. (Copyright 2020 by KPRC Click2Houston - All rights reserved.)

HOUSTON – Organizers have canceled The International Quilt Festival, which was to be held in Houston from October 29 through November 1 at the George R. Brown Convention Center.

Karey Bresenhan, founder and director emeritus of the event, shared the cancellation – “with greatest regret” Wednesday.

“Who could have known, when I was in my 30s, nearly broke, and starting Great Expectations Quilts and Quilt Festival, that here I’d be 45 years later, in the midst of a deadly pandemic, worrying about our budget, and having to make the decision to cancel that same show? Who could have known?” she wrote. “But that is what I am doing.”

The festival shared this message with its attendees:

We have read every single one of the hundreds of responses to our inquiry on Facebook and our emailed surveys as to what you, the quilters who have enjoyed Festival or who have dreamed about coming, would like us to do about festival this year.

From you I have heard: “Cancel, Karey. Think of us, keep us safe. None of us can risk catching the virus or taking it home to our families.” Your responses came through loud and clear: cancel the show and do it now!

When you run a major show, with arrangements and contracts signed months, if not years, in advance, you can’t move as quickly as you would like, but we are cancelling Festival now.

In these uncertain and even threatening days of COVID-19, many quilt-related businesses are suffering drastic loss of income and facing financial difficulties, and that includes us and many of our exhibitors. We produce quilt shows and cannot do so in the current environment. In fact, Quilts, Inc. has had to cancel Spring Quilt Market in Pittsburgh and postpone the reintroduction of our Summer Quilt Festival in Long Beach.

We didn’t build Festival into the wonderful event tens of thousands of you enjoy each year—the show with more excellent classes, more incredible quilt exhibits, and more outstanding exhibitors—by ignoring you, the quilters. We’ve always paid close attention to your suggestions and guidance as seen in your responses to our many surveys.

And so once again, we’re listening to you.

However, we are also listening to our exhibitors, to the governmental entities that control big events like Festival being held, and to the powers that be at the George R. Brown Convention Center. Even if we were able to hold Festival this year, it would be under such severe restrictions and limitations from the city, county, and convention center that it would be hard to recognize the resulting show.

But...we’re also seeing some responses from our beloved festival die-hards: “We’ll be there! I’ll come! We’ll need this show after all the lockdowns and quarantines.” We hear you, we appreciate you, but we just can’t do what you want. The safety of our attendees, our students, our faculty, our exhibitors, our volunteers, our Piece Corps, our staff, even the staff at the Convention Center, must be of paramount importance.

And so we are cancelling festival this fall. It’s sad, but strangely enough, along with the sadness, there’s just a glimmer of excitement over a new adventure as we take Festival into the Virtual World at a date to be determined! So stay tuned, folks!

Karey Bresenhan

Founder, President, and CEO of Quilts, Inc.

The Houston Quilt Festival 2021 is scheduled for October 28-31.

A virtual quilt festival is also planned, but a date has not yet been announced.

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