The 2007 New York State Sheep and Wool Festival and Family Fun Day
Dutchess County Fairgrounds
Rhinebeck, New York
October 20-21, 2007
Picture this: A bright fall weekend on a 140-acre fairground in which 275 vendors have set up booths with yarns, fibers, garments, tools, books, and nearly everything else a knitter could imagine. Barn upon barn houses diverse breeds of sheep, plus angora and cashmere goats, angora rabbits, and the occasional alpaca and llama.
The air is laced with the scent of fresh-baked chocolate-chip cookies and grilled lamb. And all around you are people sharing the same experience of fiber bliss. This was the 2007 New York State Sheep and Wool Festival, which took place last weekend in the picturesque town of Rhinebeck, just up the Hudson from New York City.
I made the journey from Maine to visit with old friends, touch yarns, meet KR readers, and sign copies of my new book. The last task made this visit a little different from years past, but I still managed to see all the vendors, touch all the yarns, meet the animals, and take lots of pictures, which I hope help bring the festival to life for you.
Hope You Like Crowds
Attendance was at an all-time high. Rumor had it that Saturday's gate count alone (12,000 people) was higher than the entire attendance at last year's festival. I was duly proud of the strong turnout and seeing proof that interest in knitting is not
subsiding. But it did make navigation trying at times.
People were everywhere. The fairgrounds are large enough, but the narrow aisles in the vendor barns were a challenge. Upon entering a barn, you had to merge with a wall of people that inched its way ever so slowly to the other end. Leaving this traffic to enter a booth—and navigate the even tighter booth traffic—reminded me of driving in Boston. Only instead of hitting one another's bumpers, we were hitting one another's large bags of yarn, fleece, and fibers. It was a massive and sometimes tiring jostle, but the contents of our bags made it worthwhile.
The Briar Rose Fibers
booth was swarming with eager beavers before the vendor booths officially opened on Saturday morning. I welcomed a chance to see and touch the yarns I'd heard about for so long.
Not too far away was Ancient Threads Farm and Fiber Mill
, which had some impressive naturally dyed yarns and spinning fibers for sale. The sock yarns seemed to draw the most excitement.
Speaking of fiber mills, I was happy to see fellow Mainer Done Roving
at the festival. They had their yarns, fibers, and some gorgeous felted artwork on display.
Another Maine favorite was Hope Spinnery
, which uses a wind generator to power its mill machinery. Not only is owner Bill Huntington committed to treading gently on the environment, but he has an awe-inspiring mastery of color.
A particularly happy union of color and fiber was at another festival favorite of mine, Kid Hollow Farm
. Only after many, many minutes of touching and gazing at the yarn was I able to leave—yes, with a large bag in tow.
One of the things I most enjoy about fiber festivals is visiting with the people who run the mills
where other folks get their fibers processed and yarns spun. Still River Mill
is one such mill, which specializes in fine, short-staple fibers like cashmere, angora, and American bison—all of which they had for sale in their booth. They even had some lovely samoyed yarn (you heard me right, as in the dog), which you see here.
I tumbled down another rabbit hole when I spotted the Windy Valley Muskox
booth, where tidy little skeins of pure and blended qiviut awaited admiration on metal shelves inside. I went in to pay my respects and quickly fell for a skein of sapphire blue qiviut, which followed me home.
The sheep barns provided a much-appreciated respite from the retail jostle in the other barns. Nothing puts a fiber festival back in perspective like a brief chat with a sheep, I say.
Or another sheep.
Or perhaps a tall, noble llama.
Or these inquisitive little angora goats in the process of being judged.
Or this adorable sheepdog puppy. The catch? They'd only let it go to a home that had a working farm. And since my rental car couldn't hold a puppy and
a sheep, I had to let this sweetheart go.
Or perhaps one of the two Percheron horses atop which this man paraded during both days of the festival. I loved the Fellini-esque feel he lent to the weekend.
The food at this year's event was head and shoulders above your standard festival fare. Instead of fried chicken wings and onion rings, we had things like savory chicken pot pies and homemade French fries cut from potatoes while you wait.
This year's novelty food had to be the deep-fried pickle, seconded by the deep-fried garlic clove, both of which were available from this fine establishment.
Autumn in New York wouldn't be complete without apples, of which there were plenty to be had. You could get them in this form...
...or this form. To be absolutely fair and impartial (ahem), I sampled both.
A Walk on the Wild Side
On Saturday night just as the fairgrounds officially closed for the day, a line began to form in front of one particular tent. It was a line for the Wild Fibers dinner, a Rhinebeck tradition, hosted by Wild Fibers Magazine
editor extraordinaire Linda Cortright.
As we munched on our generous buffet dinner, Linda gave a brief presentation about a recent trip to Kazakhstan. A gifted storyteller, Linda had us simultaneously in stitches and in tears by what she has seen and experienced on her own journeys.
After leaving Linda's tent, I made a long trek back through the dark and semi-deserted fairgrounds to my car. My walk took me past all the animal barns, where I saw exhibitors relaxing in lawn chairs by their animals, talking to one another in hushed comfortable tones above the occasional murmuring of an exhausted sheep. I was sorry to miss the Ravelry and Morehouse Merino gatherings but couldn't resist the lure of a hot bath back at my hotel.
But despite all the sheep and yarns and apple crisps and embarrassing quantities of yarn and fiber hidden in my car's trunk, I had some work to do. On Saturday, I got to meet many people and sign their copies of my new book at the Spirit Trail Fiberworks
And on Sunday, I joined several other writers for a Meet the Authors event, which was new for this year. We greeted, we talked, we signed books...
...we tried on
other people's hats...
...and we took pictures of one another
. Good times.
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