Road to California’s previous owner, Carolyn Reese, recently spent time reminiscing about her 25 years with Road.
A Clever Idea
Before Carolyn Reese purchased Road to California, she was a fabric shop owner in Upland, California. The Fabric Patch originally only carried fabrics for garment sewing.
Then, in the early 1990’s, quilting started becoming popular. Carolyn had never quilted before and she decided that she had better learn what it was all about. Her first class was a beginning quilting class taught by Eleanor Burns. Later, she took several classes from Mary Ellen Hopkins.
As a store owner, she had vendor booths in several quilt shows around the country including Paducah. One year, when she was manning her booth, she realized that many of her California customers were there in Paducah shopping. Then and there, the thought came to her: California needs a national quilt show.
About that time, the owner of a quilt conference in Anaheim, California called Road to California, and approached Carolyn to see if she wanted to buy the conference. The conference already had a good reputation and Carolyn thought it would be a great opportunity. So, she bought it and brought the conference to Ontario.
Road to California in Ontario
In the beginning, Carolyn kept Road to California as a 2-day, weekend conference in October, locating it at the Ontario Marriott.
A few years later, she moved the conference to the Ontario Airport Hilton, changed the date to January so it wouldn’t conflict with any other quilt conference, and expanded the conference to include a quilt show. During one of these new shows, a representative from the then, under construction, Ontario Convention Center, approached Carolyn and asked if she would like to move her quilt show to the Convention Center. Carolyn toured the construction site and agreed for Road to California to be the Convention Center’s first client.
The first year at the Convention Center, the show took up only about a third of the space (about the size of today’s tent!!) and classes were held off-site. By the third year, classes and vendors filled up the entire center.
Reminiscing About Road
Carolyn shared that first and foremost, having her family – 3 sons, their spouses and her grandchildren – work with her on the show was her greatest pleasure.
She was proud that the show continued to grow and that she was able to add something new every year. Carolyn noted, “I never dreamed it would grow to be the second largest quilt show in the country.”
And her legacy? “I gave quilters a chance to have a good time and forget their problems…I’m glad I did it.”
Carolyn said that having her grandson, Matt, take on the show, was a deliberate choice. Matt had just passed the bar exam and had done every job possible at Road. “He was qualified.” She has been impressed with the changes he has made thus far in continuing to make the show relevant and modern.
Thank you, Carolyn Reese, for reminiscing about 25 years of Road to California and for leading the way for the “Best in the West” Quilt Show.