by Suzanne Labry
Cama Beach Quilters
From 1934 until 1989, the Stradley family operated the Cama Beach Resort on Camano Island, an hour’s drive north of Seattle in Washington’s Puget Sound. Established during the Great Depression, it was an unpretentious fishing camp, surrounded by spectacular scenery, with rows of cedar cabins, wooden boat rentals, and a large campfire circle, where families could spend summer vacations relaxing and enjoying nature.
Quilts made by Cama Beach Quilters along the shore at Cama Beach Historical State Park. Photo courtesy of Bill Griffith.
By the 1990s, however, lifestyles had changed dramatically since the Resort’s heyday in the ‘40s and ‘50s, and the Stradley granddaughters approached the Washington State Parks Department with the generous idea of donating most of the land to make a new state park.
In 2008, the Stradley family’s dream was realized when their beloved camp—carefully restored but with modern improvements—opened to the public as Cama Beach Historical State Park, a 486-acre site connected to a second facility, Camano Island State Park, by a mile-long hiking trail.
Cama Beach still retains much of its old-time feel, and some say it is a bit like stepping through a time warp; the waterfront cabins are still there, as is the historic boathouse, and even the campfire circle. In 2001, the Cama Beach Resort was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Since 2010, this idyllic setting has also been home to something perhaps unexpected: an outdoor quilt show called Quilts on the Beach.
Quilts and boats at Cama Beach. Photo courtesy
of Cama Beach Foundation.The quilt show was not the first instance of quilters’ involvement in the revitalization of Cama Beach, however, and in fact quilts and quilters have been integral to the whole process. When the former fishing resort was being readied for its transformation into a state park, a woman who lived on Camano Island, Audrey McEwen, marshaled a group of fellow quilters to see how they might help with that effort. That’s how the Cama Beach Quilters (an informal group without membership dues or officers) came into being. Pam Fredericksen, who now acts as spokesperson for the group, recounted
“Audrey and Head Ranger Jeff Wheeler set a goal of making 100 quilts to go on beds in the 38 cabins. The group of 16 quilters began their work in 2003 by making scrap quilts based on designs common to the 1930's when the resort was built. By the time the park was opened, even though we had already surpassed that goal, we decided to continue making quilts at and for the park and we’ve been doing it ever since. We’ve now made close to 400 bed-size quilts.”
“We also partner with the nonprofit Cama Beach Foundation, which sells other things we make, such as totes and wall hangings with a signature cabin block motif, keeping their share of the proceeds to support educational programming at the park. In addition, we donate to them a raffle quilt each year that is given away at the October Fall Festival at the park,” Pam continues.
Quilts displayed on cabins during the Quilts on the Beach outdoor quilt show, held annually on the last Saturday of July. Photo courtesy of Cama Beach Foundation.The idea for the outdoor quilt show was inspired by similar exhibitions in other places, such as the one in Sisters, Oregon. “In spring of 2010 I met with park staff to discuss how and when we might mount a one-day show called Quilts on the Beach,” Pam recalls. “It was simply a free display of some of our quilts, which gave us the opportunity to see and admire our work, since the quilts, when finished, are given to Peg Hayes-Tipton, who is in charge of the cabins and who stores them in her office at the park. Within a year or so park visitors began asking if the quilts were for sale, and we decided that we could do that. At about the same time, there was a funding crisis for the parks and they were no longer able to pay for the professional quilting, so we decided that sales would allow us to continue our work and make some of our guests happy as well. The first time we sold quilts only three were purchased, but our popularity grew and we now sell between 20 and 40 quilts during our one-day show, always held on the last Saturday of July, a date that has worked extremely well for us weather-wise (we have no Plan B if it rains)!”
The year prior to the park opening, the Cama Beach Quilters were designated by Washington State Parks as an Outstanding Contribution Group. It’s easy to see why, as the group continues to provide support for Cama Beach Historical State Park in the way that only quilters can.
“Our current group includes over 30 active members, and we have contributed at least 4,000 hours of volunteer work to the park,” Pam continues. “I recently computed that we had done the equivalent of 1.5 fulltime park employees during the past year alone.”
Some members of the Cama Beach Quilters.
Photo courtesy of Cama Beach Foundation.