The Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival is a parallel world where truckloads of exhausted sheep people and vans and buses full of ecstatic fiber artists converge on the Howard County Fairgrounds for a three-day celebration of fleeces and the animals that produce them.
The sheep people are exhausted because there is always a bout of bad weather immediately prior to the festival. Lambs that were thriving before the front are suddenly hump-backed and cold. In between daily chores, show competitors spend hours finding the perfect sheep under a fleece that had spent too much time in the weather and near a hay feeder. They load those perfectly coifed sheep for the drive to Howard County. Haphazard haystacks with feet step off the trailer when they arrive. Many hours of work lay ahead for the shepherds before the sheep enter the show ring for their big day.
Completely oblivious to the trials of the shepherd, thousands of fiber artists and fiber consumers spend the weekend exchanging a year’s production of fiber magic with a year’s worth of pent-up fiber dreams. Vans full of women from Baltimore and Philadelphia and busloads of knitters from New York City make the pilgrimage to purchase the materials for their personal nirvana; raw fleeces or roving for spinners, skeins for those who can’t put their needles down. Between laps through the buildings of yarn and equipment displays, they pass through the sheep barns where they enter the shepherds’ world and delight in meeting wool-on-the-hoof. A lovely woman from Brooklyn was enchanted by our yearling lover boy, a natural-colored Bluefaced Leicester ram named Cadfael, and she arranged to purchase his fleece once he was shorn.Within days, a three-and-a-half-pound box of happiness will arrive at her door.
Dave and I set up a fiber display to the side of our sheep pens. We enjoyed visiting with sheep friends, viewing each other’s animals and meeting so many wonderful lovers of sheep and fiber. It is an event that we just don’t miss.