NYS Sheep and Wool Festival
by Kristina Goetz of Jackson, WY
Imagine – a beautiful fall day in the Northeast. The air is crisp, the foliage shining red and yellow and orange under a clear sky. Now imagine yourself surrounded by a phantasmagoria of color and texture, a dizzying array of handmade things combining beauty and utility in remarkably unique ways. Add some delicious food to this picture, and throw in a diverse crowd of enthusiastic folks. Mix all of this together, and you have set the scene for the New York State Sheep and Wool Festival.
The NYS Sheep and Wool Festival has been held every fall for nearly 40 years. Hosted at the Dutchess County Fairgrounds in Rhinebeck, NY, it’s just 2 hours north of NYC but a world away. From what I understand, it’s one of the most well-known and largest of the US fiber festivals. With an incredible smorgasbord of crafts, livestock, and fiber-related activities, this event has something to surprise and delight everyone.
I had the good fortune to stumble upon this festival in October of 2008. With a cousin and a friend in tow, we arrived not knowing what to expect. We were awestruck. Pavillion upon pavillion filled with the handiwork and tools of those devoted to all things fiber – spinning, weaving, dyeing, knitting…hooked rugs, ornately embellished felt, hats and clothes and toys…all intermingled with fiber animals of every kind and their spokespeople! Suri alpacas, cashmere goats, angora rabbits, and sheep sheep sheep – the year’s featured breed was the Romney. Fleece sales, contests, sheep shearing demos, kids activities, sheepdog trials, workshops, craft and cooking demos, livestock shows, wine and cheese tastings, a fiddle contest, and more…over 200 vendors from as far away as New Mexico come to this event! Just when you thought you had seen the most amazing thing yet, you’d turn around to spot another.
We took in as much as we could – even if we’d attended both days, we’d be hard pressed to see it all. Despite the big size of the event, it was well organized. The feel was relaxed and everyone was friendly and full of information to share.
As the day turned towards evening – which happened far too quickly – all three of us found ourselves sorry to leave. We were inspired, invigorated, and hopeful. What a way to spend a day!
This enormous celebration of all things agricultural and handcrafted is held annually in mid October. If you are in the area, don’t miss it! For more information visit www.sheepandwool.com.