The New York Sheep and Wool in Rhinebeck, NY was one of only two anchors for our entire road trip. Jyn has wanted to go to this event for years. Rhinebeck is arguably the most well known fiber festival in the US. It caters to knitting, crochet, weaving, and everything associated with the fiber arts. For example, Rhinebeck had all kinds of yarn (even vicuña yarn that costs up to $170 for only 50 grams!), knitting contests, hundreds of vendors, baby goat contests, llama/alpaca contests, photography contests, sheep contests, animal parades, sheep herding demonstrations with dogs, question and answer sessions, frisbee dogs, sheep sheering demonstrations, food, and a variety of workshops.
Rhinebeck is a small town, or perhaps a large hamlet, teeming with charm. I imagine that it is a quiet place for most of the year, but at the end of October, thousands of knitters descend upon the tiny city. We reserved our hotel around 4 months in advance and that was already too late to stay in town.
On the first day, we arrived about 40 minutes before the event started and a few hundred people were already waiting in the 50° morning. Knitting and waiting. The cold doesn’t seem to bother knitters as much. They get decked out, from head to toe, in their favorite wooly creations that represent thousands of hours of effort. It feels like the line to enter a fancy downtown club, but a bit older, more homogenous, and significantly more crafty.
After the excitement was nearly too much to bear, the gates opened and knitters stormed the fairgrounds. Our strategy was to head directly to the souvenier tent to purchase one of the coveted tote bags and shirts. We chose wisely. Later in the day, the line was at least a few hours long, and they probably ran out of the bags. Since all of the workshops were full, we spent the day roaming from event to event. Some of the highlights were watching a woman spinning yarn directly from a live English Angora bunny (bunny did not seem to mind at all), watching the high jump contest for all of the animals (a goat and an alpaca tied for first), visiting endless vendors, meeting the famous cashmere goats, making matching beanie hats in less than 5 hours, walking by the smells of fried everything, and seeing the results of my first official photo contest.
Months ago, when I heard that there was a photo contest, I immediately knew I had to participate. My goal was simply to have a picture of Jyn and/or us on the wall of photo entries for everyone to see. It would make us more a part of the festival. I entered a photo of Jyn, a photo of us, and 8 other images to span all of their categories. Sure enough, the photos were on the contest wall for everyone to see. I enjoyed watching people lean closer to the wall to see the details of my pictures. People pointed at the picture of Jyn, as well as others, and I was loved every second of it. I even asked Jyn to stand next to it so I could covertly get a picture of her next to her picture. My goal was already accomplished, but I still wanted to see how my photos ranked against the others. After the results were posted, we walked back to the photo area. I gasped! From a distance, the first thing I noticed was the picture of Jyn with a blue ribbon! Then we looked closer. My photos won 3 out of the 4 categories, was the runner up to best in show, and 7 out of 10 of my pictures placed in the top 3. Sweet potatoes!
Along with the crafty side of the event, you could also interact with the animals that provide fiber. I was unaware that a sheep’s coat feels similar to memory foam. It is dense and soft.
We were at the festival all day on both days and we never bored. We even missed a few things to do including seeing the kangaroos and having apple cider donuts. People were even waiting in a long line in the rain for those donuts! For those who are concerned, I did have a delicious apple cider donut after the event. Overall, we had a great time and look forward to attending another in the future.
Up Next, Driving down the east coast of the United States to Florida.