May 8 2012
Seriously, folks, it’s a big deal.
This year the parking lot was chock-a-block full of cars and we parked in the hinterland of the fairgrounds… passing gaggles of tailgaters who claimed swaths of grass with their folding chairs. These party animals weren’t stoking sausages on a hibachi or passing beers from a cooler.
They were knitting.
The festival celebrates all things sheep-related, from the animals themselves to the products woven and spun from their wool, to lamp chops with jelly. In between there’s plenty of home-grown crafts and music — fiddlers sawing away while carpenters whittle wood…beside broom makers and women spinning wool… next to pens of angora bunnies and a booth peddling sweaters and socks.
We skipped the Border Collie demos and all of the competitions (the “Lamb Carcass & Performance Contest” was tempting). Instead we shopped the crafts show and browsed the barns, ogling the different sheep.
The breed variation is truly amazing — from traditional, tightly-shorn Suffolk sheep to small, primitive brown-shaded Soay sheep, to burly, heavily-fleeced Lincoln sheep from Lincolnshire. The barns smelled nice — like forage with a faint whiff of livestock — and hummed under industrial fans and the buzz of electric shears. Every so often vociferous bleating rang out from one pen or another.
|A fistful of Suffolks, ready for judging|
|Fuzzy, wrinkly newborn twins|
It’s hard to imagine that more than 50,000 people trek to the Howard County Fairgrounds every year to celebrate a relatively dense, sedentary animal — void of personality — that displays absolutely no athletic prowess.
But there is something about this event that is pure and wholesome and entirely fascinating. There are no games, no rides. The entertainment is in the animals, the people and their crafts. And you can’t help but appreciate the hard work that goes into prepping these shaggy beasts or hand-weaving a rug.
Even the kids were entertained, gazing at and petting the stock, wandering the pens and stuffing their faces with carnival food.
Only Cayden and Hadley expressed mild disappointment the following day; they wondered what happened to the wolves. Yea, where were the wolves? Hadley piped up.
“What are you guys talking about?” I asked.
“You know,” said Cayden, “at the Sheep and Wolf Festival…”
|Lamb gyros, lamb stew, lamb sausage, lamb fajitas, lamb pitas…|
|The kids opted for ice cream and products of the corndog variety.|