The largest sheep and wool festival in the country takes place at the Dutchess County Fairgrounds on Route 9 in Rhinebeck on Saturday and Sunday, October 19 and 20, and it’s not just knitters, crocheters, fiber artists, spinners, weavers and dyers who show up for this annual celebration of all things wooly. Sure, there are plenty of competitions, talks, demonstrations and book-signings for the professional or serious hobbyist; but the New York State Sheep and Wool Festival has something to offer visitors of all ages and interests.
The Festival consists of two days of exceptional livestock shows and more than 250 fiber artists and craftsmen presenting sheep-related products. Visitors can purchase skeins of yarn, handcrafted wool clothing, fleece coats, baby blankets, mittens, socks, angora scarves, natural dyes, spinning wheels, looms, jewelry and glassware with sheep motifs and so on.
You can also watch a llama parade, learn to make cheese from ewes’ milk, find out what “inkle weaving” is, check out a natural-fiber fashion show, thrill to a live demonstration of dogs’ sheepherding (or Frisbee-catching) skills, taste some wines, listen to yarns about yarn, take the kids to the Petting Zoo or the Mad Science show and much more. And on Sunday, teams of engineering students from throughout the region will bring their homemade medieval siege engines to compete in the awe-inspiring Punkin Chunkin contest at the Fairgrounds, sponsored annually in conjunction with the Sheep and Wool Festival by Dutchess County Community College.
Festival hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday. Admission costs $12 per day at the gate, but you can order advance tickets online for $10.50 per day, $18.50 for a weekend pass at www.dutchessfair.com. Admission is free for children under age 12 are admitted free. For full schedules, maps and other Festival information, visit www.sheepandwool.com or call (845) 876-4000.
New York State Sheep & Wool Festival, Saturday, October 19, 9 a.m.-5 p.m., Sunday, October 20, 10 a.m.-5 p.m., $18.50/$12/$10.50, Dutchess County Fairgrounds, Route 9, Rhinebeck; (845) 876-4000, www.sheepandwool.com.
Gorgeous film about sheep-herding dogs at Upstate Films
For many families visiting the New York State Sheep and Wool Festival, the big draw is the chance to witness highly trained Border collies put through their paces as they expertly round up a milling herd of sheep. If you’ve never seen this done in real life, be advised that it puts the sheepherding contest won by a pig in the movie Babe to shame, and is an experience that definitely belongs on your bucket list. Live demonstrations are scheduled at the Dutchess County Fairgrounds for 11:30 a.m., 2:30 and 4 p.m. on Saturday and at 11:30 a.m., 1 and 3 p.m. on Sunday.
This year, Upstate Films in Rhinebeck is getting into the spirit of things by timing a screening of Away to Me (2012), a gorgeous film about world-class competitive sheepherding dogs, for Thursday, October 17 at 8:15 p.m.: just in time to whet your appetite for the wooly weekend’s events. Part travelogue, part human interest story and part sports movie, Away to Me follows national champions from the US, Canada and South Africa as they prepare for a major international sheepdog competition: the Soldier Hollow Classic, held annually on a scenic hillside course near Park City, Utah. A question-and-answer session with director Andrew Hadra will follow.
Tickets for the screening and discussion cost $8.50 general admission, $7 for seniors aged 62+ and $5 for Upstate Films members. For more information visit https://upstatefilms.org/special-events.