Blackwell Barn Quilt Trail brings visitors from sea to shining sea
A little more than a year has passed since the COVID-19 pandemic locked down the globe and gave people two options: isolate indoors or isolate outdoors.
In Blackwell, isolating outdoors was easy thanks to a sensation known as the Top of Oklahoma Barn Quilt and Geocaching Trail.
The barn quilt trail opened in 2018, and Blackwell Tourism Director Megan Childers said more than 100 commemorative completion coins were given out the day of ribbon cutting.
Since then, the Blackwell Area Chamber of Commerce and Blackwell Tourism have given out roughly 70-75 a year, meaning more than 300 people have completed the trail.
“The weather plays a big part in how busy the barn quilt geo trail is,” Childers said. “In the warmer months, we give out a lot more.”
Geocachers follow the barn quilts scattered around Blackwell and the surrounding area – 62 to be exact, with 40 geocaches. After hunting these locations down, geocachers receive a code and redeem it at the Chamber of Commerce’s office on Main Street and earn a coin for completing the trail. Originally, 250 coins were made.
Geocachers mark a map in the Chamber office of where they’ve journeyed from. Looking over a detailed map of the United States, Childers noted the waves of multicolored pins, jutting out with eye-catching bulbs planted as far north as the isolated cold of the idyllic Bismarck, North Dakota, art deco structures and as far south as the hustling, bustling cities of Dallas, Wichita Falls and Fort Worth, Texas.
Pins have been erected from the sandy beaches of tropical Florida to the flashing lights and decadence of Las Vegas – basically, Childers laughed, “everywhere.”
“Most of our traffic comes fairly locally, from Kansas City and Wichita,” she said. “Our visitors from bigger cities love the experience because they get to escape from all the noise and commotion and experience the charm and hometown-Americana ‘feel’ that Blackwell offers.”
The quilts have played a part in how the tourism board and Chamber of Commerce understand Blackwell’s economics, Childers said.
Some ways geocachers earn points, besides hunting for the quilts, are by shopping and staying locally.
“They bring us their receipts, which is how we verify their points,” Childers said. “It’s shown us that people don’t really prefer one restaurant or one hotel to the other, which is great. We’ve received receipts from pretty much every place in this ZIP code that serves food: United, Braum’s, Shep’s Diner, Los Potros, The Stack – a favorite among visitors – the Donut Palace, Pizza Hut, Jovani’s ... everywhere.”
Childers said travelers most often say they heard about the geotrail through Facebook posts as well as billboards along Interstate 35. The barn quilt trail has been featured on Discover Oklahoma, and it recently made waves with several large quilts being added to the old 4-H building at the county fairgrounds.
Maps for the barn quilt geo trail are available at the Top of Oklahoma Museum, the Chamber of Commerce and local hotels, including the Super 8, SureStay, Holiday Inn and Sleep Inn. They can also be found on the City of Blackwell’s website, https://www.cityofblackwell.com.
The Blackwell Journal-Tribune office on Main Street also has an eye-catching red and white barn quilt in the design of a certain “Umbrella” in the east window.
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