BLUE?EARTH - There'll be a whole lot of hoppin' going on when the 8th Quilt Minnesota Shop Hop starts Friday.
Old Alley Quilt Shop in Sherburn has participated in every shop hop, while it's the first time for Michele's Sewing in Blue Earth.
"Basically for them it's a chance to get out and see what's new and have fun," said Michele Hard, owner of Michele's Sewing.
"We prepare for 1,000," said Sharon Huse, co-owner of Old Alley with Becky Detert. "Just the amount of people we see gives us opportunity to introduce our shop and our corner of the state.
"We've been open 10 years," Huse added. "It's amazing the number of people who bypass the little towns and don't know the treasures we have."
The shop hop runs through Aug. 17, with around 70 quilt stores in the state participating. Minnesota is divided into 11 sections, and Old Alley and Michele's are in the Lower South West Section along with shops in Windom, Hayward and Worthington. For more information, go online to quiltminnesota.com
Anyone can stop by the shops and see what they're offering.
Old Alley and Michele's will be open seven days a week, Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (Michele's will be open until 5:30 p.m.); 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays; and noon to 5 p.m. Sundays. Michele's will be open 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Thursdays, and Old Alley will be open 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Fridays.
"Good girls day out; good girls weekend," Hard said.
The shops will have little incentives special to their stores.
Each year, Quilt Minnesota features an exclusive fabric line. Huse said there are 20 fabrics in the line this year. The line features scenes of small towns and farm life.
"Each Quilt Minnesota fabric is only sold in the participating shops, and not sold again," Huse said.
"You do up kits and displays [with the fabric]," Hard said. "Give people different ideas of what they can do with the fabric."
Each shop will have 5-inch charm squares that can be made out of any of the 20 different fabrics.
Each shop also will have its own highlights.
"I have a lot of new fabric coming in," Hard said. These include autumn and Christmas motifs, as well as Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and Frosty the Snowman, since it's the 50th anniversary for both.
Old Alley will give each customer a free 8-inch block pattern.
Hoppers can pick up a "passport," fill out their information, then get it stamped by each quilt shop they visit. Those who visit all the shops in a section are eligible for prizes. Those who visit three sections are eligible for the grand prize of an Alaskan cruise for two; and six gift certificates for $350 each to be redeemed at their favorite shop.
Hoppers need to be present to have their passports stamped. Last year, 25,000 participated, from 29 states and four countries. Huse said she has seen people from Canada, both coasts and Europe.
It's a lot of work, but Huse says it's worth it.
"It's a chance to meet lots and lots of people," she said. "It's kind of a mad house around here but it's invigorating. Keeps us on our toes. It's fun for us. Fun for them, half of the quilting experience is the hunt."