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Tens of thousands turn out for the Sheep and Wool Festival at the fairgrounds

All sorts of woolly creatures roamed the Howard County Fairgrounds last weekend. There were sheep, too.

This year's 41st annual Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival also offered, for the first time, "yarn bombing," in which swatches of multi-colored yarns were attached to trees, railings and other outdoor structures. Credit the Central Maryland Knitting Guild for these unique and fanciful creations.

The yarn for the bombing was donated by All About Yarn, a popular store in Columbia owned by Karen Thiem and Cindy Jones, who also operated Booth E3 at the fair.

According to Daphne Tilley, knitting guild president, "Walking up to a space that has been yarn bombed, it appears that the trees and fences have pulled on cozy sweaters and hats, transforming stately landscaping into a homemade crazy quilt overnight."

Up to 50,000 people turned out on Saturday and Sunday to knit, pet lambs, buy yarn, watch herding and shearing demonstrations and get up close to merinos, suffolks and hampshires.

Kris Thorne, festival manager, called the weekend, which was blessed with nice weather, "a resounding success."

In festival's 41 years, the number of vendors has grown from three to 275, she said.

The number of fleeces (the wool of one sheep) sold the first year was 47. The weekend count is not in yet, Thorne said, but in 2013 the festival saw the sale of 800 fleeces to 331 individuals.

Fleeces sell by the pound, which this year ranged from $10 to $74 per pound. That high price, Thorne said, was offered by someone who didn't expect to find a buyer.

"But it sold," she said. "Everyone called it the golden fleece."

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