Jane McAtee and Gloria Rubio-Cortes

Each year, dozens of finalists in the All-America City Award are asked to submit quilt squares representing something special about their communities. The squares are stitched together into a quilt, which tours the country visiting each finalist town, city, county or region. Southwest Airlines, the Official Airline of the All-America City Awards, is launching the quilt on its national tour again this year. The quilt will stop in each finalist community for several days, where it will go on display in public buildings and community centers. “What a wonderful way for people to celebrate the work they are doing to improve their communities!” said Jane McAtee, manager of community affairs and grassroots at Southwest. “It’s such a great opportunity or them to be creative in expressing the things that make their communities unique.”

First stop on the quilt’s 24-city tour is Kenai, Alaska, population 7115, a finalist and winner in the 2011. Among other things, Kenai’s award winning application focused on a community-wide effort to cleanup a local salmon fishery. The town’s quilt square illustrates a salmon leaping out of the river. Torrance, California, number five on the quilt tour, features a beach scene on its patch. “The All-America City quilt represents the spirit of the All-America City Awards—people working together to address our nation’s most pressing challenges,” explained National Civic League (NCL) President and chief quilter, Gloria Rubio-Cortés. “Think of the fabric of the quilt as something like the fabric of an American community.”

The patchwork varies from intricate patterns—some communities enlist the efforts of accomplished quilters—to very simple and basic cut and paste shapes. Craft and technique, however, are less important than the sentiment and community pride. It could be the town seal, for example, or an official city motto. It could be a local landmark, a scenic view or words expressing local values and goals, or a combination of any of the above. The patch-makers are encouraged to use their creativity. Last stop on the quilt’s 17-state tour will be Beloit, Wisconsin. Along the way it will visit Tupelo, Mississippi; Seaside, Oregon; Fayetteville, North Carolina and Fort Worth, Texas, among other locales.

Learn more about the award program and follow events leading up to annual event the All-America City blog at  www.allamericacityaward.com. The 2012 All-America City Awards will be held in Denver, Colorado, June 30-July 2 and will have a special focus on communities that mobilize to improve reading scores for at risk students. For more information, contact Mike McGrath at the National Civic League, 303 571 4343.