From the community

Quilt show with Dexter roots

Posted Aug. 13, 2012, at 9:36 a.m.
Jeanne Carter Wright with her 'Uncle Soapy' quilt
Jeanne Carter Wright with her 'Uncle Soapy' quilt

DEXTER/WINDHAM – Former Dexter resident Jeanne Wright will host a Quilt Exhibit at the North Windham Union Church on Route 302, 723 Roosevelt Trail in Windham, Maine on Friday and Saturday, August 24 and 25, 2012, 9:00 – 3:00. This will be an exhibit of both antique family quilts dating back to 1835 and over 80 quilts, very large to very small, that she has made, all displayed in a fun setting.

The needs in our communities grow but the funds needed to meet those needs are scarcer. A $3 donation is appreciated at this exhibit and of course larger donations would be welcome as well. All proceeds will go to her church’s Discretionary Fund so their pastor will be better able to help those who come to him in times of emergency.

Jeanne hopes you would like to fill your vehicle and take the trip to Windham. Restaurants can be recommended so that you can make a full day’s ‘outing.’ Come and enjoy the quilts in the air-conditioned church. There is plenty of free parking and the building is easily handicapped accessible.

“This picture of my ‘Uncle Soapy’ quilt has quite a story behind it and I have created a 43-page booklet in a 3-ring binder format that travels with the quilt. It explains how the quilt came into being. I had over 200 hours of research, talking with clowns and people of many facets of the circus world, finding fabrics throughout three states and creating the design before I even started making the quilt. It was donated to the ‘Save the Venice (FL) Circus Arena.’ It is the old winter headquarters building which held the Ringling Bros & Barnum and Bailey circus, which holds up to 4,500 seats. Some of the floor is 19″ thick, made to hold the weight of many elephants and there is not a crack in it. The inside of the building is in excellent condition but the immense roof needs to be fixed and is slowly wearing away the interior.

The request to make the quilt was by a friend and the sister of Duane ‘Uncle Soapy’ Thorpe who was a clown with RBBB circus for over 40 years and traveled all over the country many times, all the while living on the train. He had been in the Air Force in WWII and was on Broadway when the circus bug bit him in 1949 at a Madison Square Garden RBBB presentation and he left to join the circus. He was a skilled musician. He became a Master Clown and was awarded with the Lifetime Achievement award by the RBBB Circus Clown College in 1987 and inducted into the Clown Hall of Fame in 2000, five years after his death. He knew many stars such as Ethel Merman. He was Mr. Muscle in the McDonald’s commercials in 1967, of which I have a copy of a rare photograph. Although he was not featured in the 1952 movie, ‘The Greatest Show on Earth,’ he could be seen in at least three scenes: on the Bell Wagon, in a group shot with Prince Paul and in a scene in which he led the South American Dance Unit.

The Bell Wagon used for that movie has been refurbished and is in excellent condition. He was the 4th of over 700 clowns to have his face painted on the famous eggs of the Clown Egg Registry. There are so many fascinating facts about ‘Uncle Soapy’ and I established contact with seven clowns throughout the country who were all too happy to help me and send me information and pictures to do this project. Duane’s sister Caryl in Venice, FL has many of his costumes, wigs and clown shoes and is more than proud of her brother.

The quilt is made up of 20 Big Tops. Each has a set of front flaps that open onto pictures of ‘Uncle Soapy.’ The quilt uses three archived fabrics which are no longer being manufactured and I had to hunt in warehouses around the country to find them. I only used Duane on this quilt because his life was so fascinating that I could barely get the project under the size of a house and under the wording of a tome in some library. One section of the booklet that I provide is full of tributes to ‘Uncle Soapy’ at his memorial service. He was a very beloved man. A unique circus wagon wheel was completely covered in flowers and a spoke was broken out for that service to symbolize the loss of a great clown and friend.

The original of two of these quilts is hanging at the ‘Save the Venice Circus Arena’ location in Venice, FL. I have attached a photo of me with the quilt during that presentation. I only made two of these quilts, one to donate and one to keep. Another one will never be made.”

For more information contact quilter Jeanne Wright

POB 1266

Windham, ME 04062

207-892-2809

nanajaw@roadrunner.com

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