Once upon a time, long, long ago, in the eighth decade of the last century, shepherds in Duchess County, NY, gathered at the local fairgrounds to buy and sell ewes, with an eye towards enhancing their breeding lines.
Three decades later, herds and flocks of wool folk of all shapes, sizes, and colours descend upon the lovely town of Rhinebeck each October to attend the New York State Sheep & Wool Festival, affectionately known to fiber folk as simply “Rhinebeck”. For a few short days, shepherds and sheepdogs, fleece folk and meat folk, knitters and crocheters, spinners, weavers and basket makers all come together to celebrate the joys of Things Sheep and Things Wool.
This year, on Saturday alone, the fairgrounds hosted somewhere around 43,000 people, breaking all prior attendance records across sheep and wool festivals from sea to shining sea, as far north as Alberta and as far south as México.
I was Attendee #43,001; and I freely admit that I and 43,000 of my closest friends had a truly grand time.
Writing about my festival experiences has always been a bit of a puzzle for me. How on earth do I write about two days which contain a month’s worth of meeting old friends and new; of petting hundreds of skeins of yarn, each one more beautiful than the last; of gazing into the wide eyes belonging to creatures whose coats make fingers sing and bodies warm? The sheer volume of sensory input offered up at Rhinebeck is enough to dazzle even the most jaded of bloggers, the most savvy of yarn and fiber shoppers.
Everywhere you look, there is colour: The trees! The vendor booths! All those amazing hand-knit sweaters, all the artistry of handwoven cloth and handspun yarn, all the hours of work and the buckets-full of creative energy resulting in shawls, stoles, capes, ponchos, pullovers, socks, leggings, mittens, Hats!, dresses, skirts, tops, cardigans, and handmade coats whose hems left small trails through the crunchy carpet of fallen leaves that Mom Nature had laid out to welcome us.
More than once, I found myself standing still, a river of colorfully dressed fiber folk breaking into twin streams on either side of me, as I gaped at the sheer OhMyBob of it all.
If you are on Ravelry and post in the forums, chances are good that you have a “home forum”. This year, as we did last year, members of my home forum designated a picnic table as a meet-up location; various people volunteered to “woman the picnic table” and act as texting contacts, so that we could easily find each other.
Several times throughout the weekend, I wandered over to be surrounded by the friends who live in my computer. Long-promised hugs were finally traded, adventures shared, bags of goodies opened to gloat over purchases with old friends one has only just met.
I think that our meetup table must have been a little bit like the place just inside the Pearly Gates, where we joyfully recognize the loved ones we have never seen.
I have more Rhinebeck Stories to tell, but those will wait for another day.
It was truly a delight to be amongst my Tribe: All of them, thumbs, waggy-tails, horns and all.
One small Chispa for now… Back Then…I wrote about my Top Ten Reasons to Attend A Wool Festival, back in 2010 when I was KD Sandi, Founding Editor of Knitting Daily.