The Hippo


Nov 13, 2019








New Hampshire Sheep and Wool Festival

Where: Deerfield Fairgrounds, 34 Stage Road, Deerfield
When: Saturday, May 14, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sunday, May 15, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Cost: $7 for adults, $5 for seniors 62+ and youth ages 13 through 18, free for children ages 12 and under

Fest of flocks
NH Sheep & Wool Festival has shows, demos and more

By Angie Sykeny

 Farmers, crafters and anyone interested in sheep, alpacas or goats will find plenty of things to do and see at the 40th annual New Hampshire Sheep and Wool Festival. 

The event takes place Saturday, May 14, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sunday, May 15, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., at the Deerfield Fairgrounds. On both days, there will be numerous workshops, demonstrations, lectures, shows and vendors.
“New Hampshire, like most New England states, has a long history with sheep-raising and fiber production,” said Theresa Walker, a volunteer publicity coordinator for the event. “The purpose of the festival is to showcase that industry in our state and educate people who are interested in raising sheep.” 
A highlight of the festival is the sheep fleece show and sale, where producers submit their fleeces to be judged. The show allows raw, well-skirted fleeces from any fiber animal and has divisions for fine, medium, long and primitive fleeces in both white and natural colors. Each will be evaluated based on its adherence to its breed standard, its luster, cleanliness and overall quality. 
“Those are the attributes that hand spinners and knitters take seriously, so that’s what judges will be looking for,” Walker said. 
The fleeces will also be available for purchase. People planning to buy some can attend a demonstration beforehand on how to choose fleeces that are of good quality and well-suited for their purposes. 
“For spinners, knitters, weavers, anyone who loves working with natural fibers, this is an opportunity to shop for products that aren’t available anywhere else,” Walker said. “If you’re at the grounds, you’ll see people walking out with large bags of fleeces and big smiles on their faces.” 
Visitors can participate in crafting workshops like nuno felting a scarf, using different spinning structure techniques, needle-felting a sheep and being a frugal fiber buyer.  
There’s also sessions on spinning for beginners, spinning primitive breed sheep wool, using natural dyes for contemporary colors and even one on making a beret out of rabbit fiber. Craft shows include a display of handmade fiber items and a display of handspun skeins, and some of the artists will be on site demonstrating their work and answering people’s questions. 
At the breed display, visitors can examine different breeds of sheep and goats up close and purchase fleeces directly from those exhibitors. 
“It’s a unique opportunity to meet with the producers in person and talk with them, and to be able to pet some of the animals from which the [product] was made,” Walker said.
The festival is also a place where established farmers can expand their knowledge, browse equipment for sale and connect with other farmers. There will be demonstrations of handling and preparing sheep for show, trimming sheep hooves, shearing sheep and alpacas, skirting a fleece and using herding dogs. Lectures will be offered on various topics such as electric fencing, guard llamas, sheep nutrition, coyote management and genetic engineering for a better flock. 
There will be some basic introductory sessions about sheep farming for not-yet and beginner farmers, too. 
“We’ve seen a resurgence of people interested in backyard farming, and sheep lend themselves to that landscape of smaller fields and pastures,” Walker said, “so I think we do get people who have been doing it a long time, but also a lot of people who are interested in starting.”
A used equipment sale will have items for fiber work like spinning wheels, looms, spindles and warping boards, and items for farming like feeding tubes, electric netting, clippers, hand shears and more. 
There will be about 100 vendors total throughout the weekend, including food vendors, “many of them highlighting lamb dishes,” Walker said. 
Other happenings include the Australian Shepherd Club of New England’s stockdog farm trials and New England Alpaca Owners and Breeders Association’s alpaca show. Finally, young sheep farmers will have a chance to present their own sheep at the youth sheep show, and their knowledge at the sheep quiz bowl. 
“The festival gives everyone an opportunity to meet with others in the state,” Walker said. “It’s a strong community. Everyone’s always learning from each other.” 

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