Navajo artisans traveled from New Mexico to show the "Navajo way" for carding, spinning and plying wool at the Maryland Sheep & Wool Festival last week at the Howard County Fairgrounds in West Friendship.
The festival of sheep breeders, hand-spinners and craftspeople began in 1974 and attracts participants from as far away as Maine, Utah and Texas. Visitors see an assemblage of displays, vendors, contests, parades and entertainment all having something to do with sheep and wool.
"When we were walking through the parking lot, there were tags from every state you can think of," said Anna Schlicht, 13, of Clarksville, who attended the event with some of her friends. "We've heard really good things about [the festival]. "
Anna watched sheep and wool shows and viewed people cleaning wool and making wool products. A Parade of Sheep Breeds featured many rare and exotic breeds.
"It really was educational because I have never seen half the breeds that were there," she said.
Anna has more than a passing interest in sheep: She raises and shows them at the Howard County Fair, and raises and sells market sheep.
The festival offered many events and contests including a fine art competition, a poster contest, a garment competition, a lamb cook-off, a 4-H sheep judging contest and sheep-shearing demonstrations.
The crowd delighted in sheep dog demonstrations by Nathan Mooney, of Carlisle, Pa. , who showed different ways his Border collies could maneuver a small herd of sheep around the horse arena. Working in pairs, the dogs commanded by Mooney herded 10 sheep around the arena, finally corralling them into a pen.
For those who came to shop, more than 260 merchants peddled products. There was wool in various stages of production, from yarn to sweaters and shawls.
Although many merchants sold items relating to sheep, such as fencing and shearing equipment, some offered crafts and jewelry.
Patty Whiteof Harvest, Ala., has been coming to the festival with her company, Little Barn Inc.,for seven years. She sells prepared fiber for hand-spinning. Jeanne Aspluch, a friend from Fort Washington, Pa., who restores and sells antique spinning wheels, meets her at the festival.
For White, the show schedule starts in January and ends in November.
"We aim at the people that spin their own yarn, and there are also people who aim at the weavers," White said.
"We do really well every year and, besides, there are a lot of people we see in Maryland that we don't see anywhere else. We have a lot of customers that come back every year and we know them by first name," she said.
Mary Ostrowskiof Monkton, came to buy wool to make socks for her four children. The Maryland Institute of Art graduate said, "This is the best place to come for fibers, but it is normally elbow to elbow."
Ostrowski looks forward to the festival, which she calls "a fiber person's Mecca.
"I have come in the rain and the mud. I have come pushing baby strollers. My husband and I (have) had to stop and knock the mud off the stroller wheels so we could keep going," she said. "I hope they never stop having it!"
The Howard County Conservancy has received $1,605 grant from the Janice Hollman Administrative Grant Fundto help publish the conservancy's quarterly newsletter, The Poplar.
The grant was approved by the Maryland Environmental Board of Trustees. The fund helps support land trusts in their protective efforts.
Interested parties can join the conservancy for its Volunteer Work Day from 9 a.m. to noon Saturday. Tasks include gardening, trail and building maintenance, and farm cleanup. Individuals, families and groups are welcome. Bring a bag lunch or picnic. Information: 410-465-8877.
River Hill spring concert
The River Hill High School (RHHS) Music Department presents its annual Spring Concert at 7 p.m Tuesday in the auditorium. Tickets are $5.
Last month, the music department traveled to Myrtle Beach, S.C., to attend Fiesta-val, an invitational music festival. The students excelled: The combined orchestras' and bands' scores came within 1/600th of a point of having RHHS named Instrumental Grand champions.
Congratulations to these talented musicians!
Troop 737 Car Wash
Boy Scout Troop 737 of Mount View Middle School in Marriottsville will hold a car wash from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday at Sunny's The Affordable Outdoor Store, 9291 Baltimore National Pike, Ellicott City. Information: Harry Proctor, 410-442-2591.