Thursday, June 01, 2006

Sheep & Wool Festivals

I've been reading a lot of blog posts about the two major S&W festivals on the East Coast. It seems that not only are they huge, but there's tons of great stuff to buy. Of course, the buying part is what I latch on to.

Frankly, I have Coast Envy. I'm jealous of the people on the East Coast who have an accessible and popular rural community. I know California has wool festivals, but at least half are in SoCal, and I'm looking for this kind of thing in NorCal.

An example of a successful discovery: West Valley Alpacas in Esparto (a town even my encyclopedic mother had never heard of), where I bought Spartacus (there's a whole post down there somewhere). I learned of another alpaca farm- can't recall the name- that's also in Esparto. After a good long internet search, I happen to happen upon TWO farms in that podunk little town. This farm was having its shearing during the Memorial Day weekend, so I couldn't go, but I really wanted to; I'll know for next year.

There's a thing in Sonoma County called Farm Trails*, which is a directory of farms/vinyards/ranches/whatever in the county. You can search depending on what products you're looking for, or what area you're in, or the features of the location (like sleepovers, petting zoo, or whatever). I'm not giving the website, because frankly, it's a terrible site. It's hard to navigate, and the info is not current. Most of the farms are orchards or vinyards, not really a lot of fiber farms, but there were some.

Sonoma goes through various iterations of horticulture; right now it's oeniculture, before that it was apples (but they were bought out by Washington apple companies to cut the competition), before that, it was peaches, but that was before my parents' time (so, more than sixty years ago). The area we have a cabin in- Western Sonoma, I believe- has an apple blossom festival in the spring, and the Gravenstein Apple Festival at the end of the summer. If you're in the area, I reccommend going, because there are some to-die-for apple fritters, not to mention the other delicious fair food, and all the local vendors.

But back to my topic; the vendors, even at the Gravenstein Fair, don't sell yarn or fiber or anything. Last year, there was a display/petting area that had llamas, rabbits, sheep, and angora goats. The woman who owned the goats was spinning their locks in the grease. That's the first example of fiber-love I've encountered there (not including the Royale Hare booth, where I ordered yarn for the first time- they were there one or two years, but haven't returned).

I want to find a fiber festival like the ones on the East Coast.

I'm going to SOAR this year, and there's going to be fiber galore, but probably no raw fleeces. (I don't know why that disappoints me; I don't even want to buy raw fiber!)

Maybe if I researched a little better, or- as I'm sure my mother will reccommend- I should go to a local guild and ask them. I may just ask Morgaine of Carolina Homespun, because she's really on top of this kind of thing.

*Lots of places have this kind of thing. There are wine-tasting trails (also in Sonoma, Napa, etc.), in England there's a tea trail, in Scotland there's a whiskey trail. There are probably wine trails in France. I know one can travel the silk road (but that's a little different). It's a highly marketable idea- it's a tour that you can tailor to your time, your area, your tastes, and all the local farms/vendors/shops have to do is put themselves on a list that probably doesn't cost very much money, and they get some great advertising.


John said...

Morgaine is a great resource and not just because she actually goes to most of the festivals. She always has a travel schedule on that is a great place to start if you are looking for festivals.

Dixon Lambtown is coming up on July 29th. It's not big, but it sounds fun. The closest large festival is probably Black Sheep Gathering in Eugene at the end of this month.

SOAR Staff said...

There are lots of good small shows out west like Estes Park Wool Market ( and Taos Wool Festival ( In each issue of Spin-Off magazine there is a calendar department towards the back of the magazine. There festivals and gatherings are listed by state. See you at SOAR!

The Spinning Guy said...

In Oregon, we have Black Sheep Gathering, Eugene OR in late June and the Oregon Flock and Fiber Festival in Canby, OR in September plus a number of little local events.

There's a festival in Mendocino, CA sometime between the two, but I've never been and of course there is Lambtown in Dixon, CA. I'm sure there are others.

My guess is that with the possible exception of MDSW, our west coast fiber festivals are the equal (in quality and numbers) of their east coast equivalents, but they're a little under the radar and less hyped by bloggland.

I think it would be great fun to put a fiber festival in one of the fancy urban centers on the west coast, but most fiber farms couldn't/wouldn't handle the booth fees that accompany reasonable urban show venues.