Shopping Plus: Knitter’s Nirvana this Weekend in Rhinebeck
Of course, there will be yarn, thousands of skeins of it, and not just wool either. There will be cashmere, alpaca and other exotic specialty fibers. There will also be products made from yarn—sweaters, socks—as well as bags of fleece for those who prefer to do their own spinning and dying. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Let others debate the chicken and the egg, when it comes to wool, this guy, who happens to be a Merino sheep, comes first, before the yarn, before the sweater or the bolt of cloth. And this weekend in Rhinebeck, Merinos and their relatives, including the rare Leicester Longwool, this year’s honored breed, will be out in force at the 37th Annual Sheep and Wool Festival at the Dutchess County Fairgrounds.
It is not surprising that sheep and their byproducts were one of Dutchess County’s first industries. What is surprising is that it remains a viable one; in fact, it is presently enjoying a growth spurt, along with other kinds of farming. So it follows that the Fairgrounds festival that honors it should also grow. “When my daughter was little, we used to go to see the sheep shorn, and it was a smallish event,” says Maureen Missner, co-owner of Paper Trail in Rhinebeck. “I’m astounded by its growth. Every yarn lover and knitter I know makes the trek to this show each fall, and I can tell by the people who come into our store that weekend that it’s now a national and international event.”
Hundreds of sheep, llamas and alpacas will be on display and competing for ribbons, as will craft and fiber artists from around the country presenting their best wool- and sheep-related items. “People wait on line to buy $600 sweaters,” says Piper Woods of Montgomery Row in Rhinebeck. Family activities include a Halloween Haunted Tunnel, a Hay Maze, horse drawn wagon rides, music, cooking demonstrations, a “Punkin Chuckin” contest, and even a band of Border Collies showing off their shepherding skills. Which should not be interpreted as an invitation to bring the dog. Kids absolutely, but please leave Rex at home.