A visit to the Clermont State Historic Site, situated just across the county line between Dutchess and Columbia Counties, is always a pleasant idea – especially when the 18th-century mansion and grounds come alive with a scene that speaks to Chancellor Livingston’s residence here. The annual Chancellor’s Sheep & Wool Showcase, held on the picnic grounds above the Hudson River, highlights the basic animal husbandry and handmade fiber arts that have varied little over time.
Indeed, the event is named for that ambitious Founding Father, steamboat entrepreneur and farmer. Robert Livingston was famous for raising Merino sheep, brought in from Spain to mix with his domestic stock: an act of husbandry that altered the young nation’s future wool industry. And, while the ensuing expansion across the continent and the industrialization of textile production changed sheep-raising well beyond what he might have imagined, much has stayed the same.
The annual family festival brings historic fiber arts, culture and crafts to a bucolic scenario where live sheep, angora rabbits and alpacas take center stage. Vermont’s Fred DePaul will be doing shearing demos, while Wild Goose Chase NE will show the technique of using herding dogs to keep flocks of geese in check. (The organization offers humane goose control services to clients in New York, Massachusetts and Connecticut, where the overabundance of wild geese causes safety and health concerns in public locations.)
Fiber enthusiasts can wander through the concourse and shop the wares of more than three dozen local vendors – because there’s no such thing as having too much yarn in one’s private stock – as well as witnessing the work of skilled artisans who will demonstrate spinning (done by Elmendorf Spinners), knitting and other techniques.
Billed as the region’s “first fiber festival of the season,” the Sheep & Wool Showcase keeps getting bigger every year, reports Jeff Benton, curator of collections and education at Clermont. “This year we’ll have live music by the Canadian folk music group Tamarack and the T McCann Band with its fresh take on traditional Celtic music to entertain visitors. And two food vendors – Que to Go and Nosh Food Truck – for people to buy snacks and drinks.”
Spinning and weaving demos will take place throughout the day, and crafts for kids will entice a new generation into the fiber arts. For a complete list of 2019 exhibitors and vendors, check the website below. Admission includes tours of the mansion. Dogs on leashes are allowed. Dress for unpredictable spring weather, and note that if heavy rain is called for, the event will take place on Sunday, May 5.
Admission includes tours of the mansion. Dogs on leashes are allowed. Dress for unpredictable spring weather, and note that if heavy rain is called for, the event will take place on Sunday, May 5.
The Chancellor’s Sheep & Wool Showcase, Saturday, May 4, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., $10 per vehicle/$8 for Friends of Clermont, Clermont State Historic Site, 87 Clermont Avenue, Germantown; (518) 537-6622, https://www.friendsofclermont.org/sheep-wool.