In the adorable town of Rhinebeck, NY, the Duchess County Fairgrounds get overrun for one October weekend each year by the Sheep and Wool Festival. One of my coworkers is an avid fiber artist who first mentioned the event to me. Unable to contain my curiosity or my newfound love of knitting (winters are long in upstate NY, don’t judge me) I ventured out last weekend to see what the fuss was about.
Fiber artists, farmers, and enthusiasts from the Hudson Valley and beyond hold classes, demonstrations, and competitions all weekend long with booths selling all kinds of sheep and wool products. Do you need skeins of hand-dyed Alpaca yarn? Gourmet goats milk soap? What about wool tartan fabric for your own kilt? The coziest hats and scarves you’ve ever seen? The marketplace at the event will be your dream shopping experience then.
If you’re an advanced fiber artist yourself, you can enter one of the competitions hosted by the festival. The competitions aren’t just for people, however. Goats, sheep, and alpacas can also win prizes. If you’re looking to start your own smallholding, you can purchase sheep and angora rabbits at the festival as well. You’ll have a pet, and when you give them their seasonal haircut, you’ll get luxury fibers; a win-win, I think. They also sell raw wool and equipment like spinning wheels if you want to try your hand at spinning your own yarn, or if you’d like to reenact Sleeping Beauty. Some stalls even have spinning wheels and looms set up for demonstration or for you to try.
Watch demonstrations to learn how to safely shear sheep, train your animals, and how to use very good dogs to keep your flock safe and orderly.
If you need a break from all the animal fibers, there’s a food court where you can get the usual festival treats including that upstate delicacy, apple crumble. There’s also a hall of just local food and wine booths. Sample local baked goods, jams, sauces, and even whiskey there.
It was a cool, drizzly day when we attended the festival, but that only made it feel more appropriate to be getting snuggly with all the lovely woolen things.
Like all the upstate festivals I’ve been to since moving to NY, this one was full of creative people doing what they’re passionate about. Even if it’s not your niche interest, you’ll be fascinated by the skill and commitment these people have to their craft. And it’s always awesome to support people keeping the art of handcrafting alive. Just try to leave without picking up a few treats for yourself.
Next year’s festival is already scheduled for October 17 and 18, 2020. For more information, check out their site.