It’s almost time for the Maryland Sheep & Wool Festival, a long-time tradition in Howard County. This year’s festival are held at the Howard County Fairgrounds in early May. Parking and admission are free, however a $5 minimum donation is suggested each day. When you donate, you receive a collectible festival button.
The Maryland Sheep and Wood Festival began in 1974. It was created as an event where hand-spinners could buy fleeces at auction. Forty-seven buyers attended that first festival. Nearly 350 buyers attended the 2014 festival, a number that is a testament to the festival’s popularity and growth.
Part of its growth is due to the fact that the festival is not just for buyers anymore. It has evolved to become a community event with demonstrations, classes and entertainment, as well as food and craft vendors. In fact, more than 200 vendors attend each year, offering festival-goers the chance to purchase materials, supplies and finished goods.
This festival offers you a behind-the-scenes look at what it takes to produce wool and farm-fresh lamb. Attend a Shepherd Workshop if you’re curious about what it takes to raise sheep or if you are seriously considering obtaining a herd. Participate in a hands-on workshop where you’ll learn to care for and handle the animals. Watch sheep shearing, spinning, herding demos and more. Pick up a few tips from the lamb cooking demonstration by Chef Brett Arnold from Smokin’ Hot Bar and Grille. Learn about the various breeds of sheep during the Sheep Parade.
Classes and competitions are always part of the festival. A few of the main events include the Fine Arts Competition featuring sheep or wool-related subjects and a Sheep to Shawl contest, where a team shears a sheep and then goes through the steps to make a shawl in the span of a couple hours. Other competitions include the Junior Spinning Competition, the Grand Chili Cook-off and a Sheep Photo Contest.
The Family Activities Tent includes opportunities for children to make Dream Catchers and needle tapestry bracelets, as well as learn to spin wool and try their hand at knitting and crocheting.
There is a special Leicester Longwool Sheep Exhibit to celebrate the return of the breed to the U.S. The exhibit includes presentations and demonstrations. Another new exhibit is the Festival Farm Market where you can purchase lamb, honey and cheese products. This exhibit is located in the Home Arts Building. If you plan to purchase edible items, it is recommended that you bring a cooler.
For more information about demonstrations, exhibits and a schedule of events for the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival, please visit the event website.
If you’re planning to attend the festival, let the Wayside Inn serve as your home base during your visit. Our Ellicott City bed and breakfast is a romantic retreat from everyday reality. The Wayside Inn is the perfect place for you to escape. After a day at the Maryland Wool and Sheep Festival, come back to The Wayside Inn where you can relax in one of our six beautiful, quaint rooms. Wake up refreshed and enjoy a delicious gourmet breakfast that you’re sure to love.
Photo Credit: Jeff Kubina / Maryland Sheep & Wood Festival / Flickr