Sheep festival returns for its 21st year

May 06, 1994|By Rona Hirsch | Rona Hirsch,Contributing Writer

For the 21st year in a row, tens of thousands of people will head to western Howard County to stare at sheep -- big sheep and little sheep, curly and shaggy sheep; Lincolns and Corriedales; Romneys and Rambouillets.

It's the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival, an old-fashioned country fair, returning tomorrow and Sunday to the Howard County Fairgrounds in West Friendship.

The country's largest sheep show "covers every range and aspect of sheep and wool you wanted to know and probably some you didn't," said Leslie Bauer, executive secretary for the festival.

About 50,000 people and more than 1,000 sheep from across the United States and Canada are expected at the free event sponsored by the Maryland Sheep Breeders Association.

Dozens of breeds specifically bred for wool production will strut their stuff in 14 different categories.

Judged on breed characteristics and quality of wool, winners will be awarded champion ribbons.

More than 250 vendors from across the country will display and sell hand-woven wool rugs, hand-knitted wool sweaters, sheepskin slippers and coats, sheep calendars, sheep pictures, sheep stationery, plus wool by the pound and all sorts of other weaving supplies.

One of the most popular parts of the weekend is the working sheep dog presentation. Acting on whistle commands, border collies will herd sheep and lambs through gates and into pens.

In the time-honored "Sheep to Shawl" competition, five-member round-robin teams will shear, spin and weave wool into shawls within three hours.

"You see the whole process," said Ms. Bauer who has worked on the festival committee for 10 years. "They even use old-fashioned spinning wheels."

Chefs will give lamb-cooking demonstrations, while amateurs participate in Sunday's "Maryland Grand Lamb Cook-off" and "prepare their best recipes," Ms. Bauer said.

Food vendors will sell lamb burgers, lamb sausage, lamb kebab and sheep milk cheese.

Seminars on knitting, weaving, rug-hooking and felting, and demonstrations of sheep shearing, spinning and weaving will be given throughout the weekend.

At the Feeder Lamb Show and Sale for 4-H members, young farmers can buy animals to fatten and groom for later competitions at county and state fairs.

Tomorrow night, author Donald McCaig, who writes about sheep dogs, will hold a book-signing.

On Sunday morning, Jane Hyland will give a seminar on storytelling.

Musical entertainment on two stages will feature favorite hammered dulcimer tunes and Scottish fiddling, dancing and bagpipers.

Two visitors from the New York State Fair, "Woolamina," a human in sheep's clothing, and "Bo-Peep," her shepherdess, will stroll through through the fairgrounds both days, stopping to chat with children.

The Lamb and Wool Queen Contest though, will be judged tonight.

"It used to be held during the festival, but the festival has been growing so much, they do it before," said Ms. Bauer, of Dayton, who holds the distinction of being the Maryland Lamb and Wool Queen of 1986.

Eight contestants are competing this year. To qualify, entrants must be 14 to 22 years old and active in sheep or wool production.

Besides being quizzed on their background and knowledge of the industry, contestants will be judged on their poise and public speaking ability.

"The winner will represent the Maryland Sheep Breeders Association and promote sheep and wool throughout the state next year," Ms. Bauer said.

The 21st annual Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival will be held from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. tomorrow and from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday at the Howard County Fairgrounds in West Friendship.

Admission and parking are free. No dogs are allowed.

Information: 531-3647.

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