TWENTY years ago, two carloads of the Macleay Valley Quilters drove down to Darling Harbour in Sydney for the opening of the Quilters' Guild 2001 Sydney Quilt Show.
They had been told their entry, a quilt made in memory of the late Betty Budden and entitled "Betty's Dream", had been favourably commented on by the judges and had won a place.
The group had no idea where their master work had placed in the rankings.
Tension mounted as the judge read out the winners, one by one.
Then it happened, when the second place winner in the Group/Collaborative Section was announced, the ladies realised they had done the unthinkable and taken out first prize.
The collective reaction was instant joy, all their hard work to honour Betty had been recognised.
"When we knew we had won first prize there was a lot of cheering and yelling", Macleay Quilter Margaret Westley said.
"We jumped around like school girls."
Betty Budden was a foundation member and former president and secretary of the Macleay Valley Quilters.
She also volunteered at Kempsey Museum where she spent many hours researching and cataloguing.
When the Macleay Valley Quilters were discussing their plans for the big Year 2000, Betty suggested the group make a commemorative quilt with the Macleay Valley as the theme.
The group enthusiastically supported the idea, but while it was still in the early planning stages, Betty fell ill and sadly passed away only a few months later on March 1, 1999.
Her passing strengthened the determination of the quilters to make the quilt and the project became known as Betty's Dream.
Around 30 women worked on the three square metre quilt after a student member of the group designed the quilt on a computer.
Everyone in the group had a role to play, from start to finish, it was a team effort.
Some made individual blocks, while others embroidered embellishments and quilted.
The design features historic buildings and scenes from the Macleay with the mighty river itself as the unifying design element.
Buildings include the All Saints Anglican Church, the Agricultural Hall at the Showground, Bellbrook Hotel, the Pioneer Cottage at Kempsey Museum, Trial Bay Gaol and other notable landmarks.
Scenes of the logging, fishing and beef industries are all included, while images of native birds and animals are seen along with icons of local manufacturing such as an Akubra hat and a Milo tin.
The Betty's Dream Quilt was donated to the Macleay River Historical Society (MRHS), along with the prize money, which was instantly put to good use.
The MRHS used the funds to construct a suitable enclosure for the quilt, and display it in the Kempsey Museum.
The Betty's Dream Quilt is one of the most popular exhibits in the Museum and is accompanied by a miniature quilt containing a dedication to the woman who inspired it all:
Betty's love of the Macleay was paramount; born in Kempsey, she spent her entire life here.
A lady of many diverse talents, Betty had a vision: as a club project, to make a quilt depicting our wonderful valley in celebration of the Year 2000.
Sadly, Betty did not live to see her dream come to fruition, but our quilters have created this unique and exquisitely crafted quilt as tribute to her.
This quilt is for you, Bet, with all our love
Macleay Quilters Inc.
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