The New York State Sheep & Wool Festival
October 16 & 17 in Rhinebeck
A few years ago, a friend of mine bought a 200-year-old manor house near the Hudson River with an impenetrable, overgrown meadow, and he decided that keeping goats might be the most efficient, ecological and economical way to clear and maintain the land. He knew nothing about goats so he persuaded me to accompany him to the New York State Sheep and Wool Festival at the Dutchess County Fairgrounds, which was as entertaining as it was educational. We toured the livestock area and met dozens of people who raise goats, and they were all full of tips about fencing, shearing and milking. So were the sheep owners and breeders who were justifiably proud of their beautiful animals that often had exotic pedigrees. “Are you looking for a fiber animal?” the exhibitors would say, making me aware of the distinction between animals raised only for their wool and those raised for food.
If you’ve been mulling the idea of getting some sheep to maintain your lawn and up your rural cred, the Sheep and Wool Festival is a must. You can find lots of folks who’ll advise you on what type of fences and outbuildings you’ll need and how to keep the animals’ water troughs from freezing during the winter. At the festival, my friend learned the he’d also have to get two gigantic Great Pyrenees to guard the Shetland sheep he was coveting. Apparently, coyotes like to dine on lamb.
Even if you have no interest in keeping livestock, the festival makes for a wonderful outing; it’s part petting zoo and part holiday bazaar. If you knit, you can find skeins of every imaginable type of wool from suppliers like Red Hook’s Hudson Valley Sheep and Wool, and you can attend workshops in spinning and felt-making. And if you’re planning ahead for the holidays, you can buy handmade scarves, blankets, ponchos and mittens from dozens of vendors. And if you’re bringing children, the organizers suggest that the sheep dog trials, leaping lama contest, and the canine Frisbee Demonstration will equally amuse the kids and adults.
New York State Sheep and Wool Festival
Dutchess County Fairgrounds
Rhinebeck, NY; 845,756.2323
October 16, 9 a.m. - 5 p.m.
October 17, 10 a.m. - 5 p.m.
Admission: $12 (Two-day pass: $17)
Children under 12: Free
Free parking; no pets allowed.