Saturday, May 12, 2007

2007 Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival (1)

Oh, my gosh! What a wonderful three days! Whit, Joyce, Debra and I spent three days last weekend at the 34th Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival, and what a terrific visit it was. It was a weekend of laughs, aching legs, and more laughs. Here are a few of the highlights:

(1) I stayed at Debra's house the night before our flight. We had all attended our guild meeting that night and it was an emotional evening, full of sturm and drang. So it was a pleasure to be able to snuggle into Debra's stash and fondle it before bed. I wanted to just curl up in her studio and roll in her yarn and roving but that seemed over the top even for me.

(2) We stayed at the Hampton Inn in Columbia. Nice hotel, clean rooms, good breakfast, lots of camaraderie with other attendees, but the highlight had to be the manager's comment when we checked in: "I understand the "Maryland sheep" part, but why would anyone have a "sheep and WOLF festival? Aren't wolves and sheep enemies?"

(3) Since we couldn't get into the festival until Saturday, we pulled out our Yarn Finder and went in search of a yarn shop. I know, I know, why go looking for yarn when you're about to go buy yarn? Uh, duh! Anyway, we ended up at the Celtic Knot Yarn Shop in Ellicott City. The people there were very friendly and welcomed us warmly. I picked up a couple of skeins of Opal sock yarn, just to warm up the debit card.

(4) While we were at the Celtic Knot, we ran into two fellow festival attendees, Debbie and Linda from Connecticut. No, we'd never met before, but the pheromones took over and we recognized fellow fanatics. We got to talking and Debbie (the knitter) and Linda (the non-knitter--what's that about, Linda?) gave us some tips for new attendees--what time to go, where to park, what to eat, etc. Invaluable advice for the newbies!

(5) We wandered over to Baltimore to do a quick tour of the highlights--the Inner Harbor and Fort McHenry. We got to the fort just before closing so we only had a few minutes to walk over to the water, draw in the wonderful smell, and check out the view. Then back to Little Italy for dinner at Sabatino's.

(6) We found Sabatino's (an old haunt of mine from the days of attending Orioles games with our friend Larry Frisbee) but parking, of course, looked impossible. I looked for the valet guys but a middle-aged guy (read, my age) sitting in a lawn chair in front of the restaurant said, "hey, just leave it right there."

Me: "There? It doesn't look like a full parking space...I'm worried about being towed."
Him: "Nah. You'll be fine--in fact, give me your keys and I'll park it for you."
Me: "Uh, how do I know you won't steal my car?" (I'm trusting but not dumb. Well, not much.)
Him: "Hey, my name is Vince, and I'm the owner. I'll bring you the keys."
Me: "Well....okay." (Okay, I'm dumb.)

So we went in, were seated, and pretty soon the waitress arrived to say, "Vince told me to take good care of you. Here's an appetizer on him." And right after that, Vince showed up with the keys. So, okay, trusting is good. Sabatino's was good, Vince was a good guy. Thanks, Vince! (And, we had so much food that we had dinner for the next night to stuff into our hotel room refrigerator!)

(7) So, early Saturday, we're up early. I ran into a very nice couple from Vermont named Marly (sp?) and Keith, and they told me their daughter lived in Decatur and had told them she didn't know if there was knitting in Atlanta or not. What the heck? I dispelled that notion immediately, and gave Marly instructions on how to come to a guild meeting or a Peachtree Handspinners guild meeting (she's a spinner, too) when she's in town. I hope she will. Then we drove to the festival grounds, thinking we were so slick, we'd probably be among the first to get a parking space. Uh, no! We were probably the 200th car at that point, about 8 am. (Festival opens at 9.) So off to stand in line for the tee shirts. (Tip from Debbie: The tee shirt line fills up early and the the sale doesn't start until 9, so get in line and be prepared to wait.) We waited in line, then we waited some more, then we found Debbie and Linda in line, then we schmoozed with some other folks, and the line didn't move, the sales didn't begin. In the meantime,

(8) I saw another line forming across the way and realized, "Socks That Rock!" So I left my pals in the tee shirt line with my order and rushed over to The Fold booth. Pretty soon (8:30-ish) they opened up, and I joined the melee of friendly, pushy, grabby shoppers (and I say that in a good way!), finally scoring four skeins of Socks That Rock (see list in Post #2). Plus, I ran into one of the gals from The Celtic Knot shop scoring her yarn and we had a good laugh about that--she was on her way to a christening or something like that and we both had to question the wisdom of that. Non-knitters...what can you expect?

NOTE TO OTHER ATTENDEES: If you brought your non-knitting husband or spouse for company (what were you thinking?), please leave him/her outside the booth while the rest of are looking for STR. They just take up space and they're not buying or fondling...frankly, they're just in the way.

Back to our regularly scheduled posting.

(9) Back to the tee shirt line. Still not open. Hmmm....9:15. Grumbling, mumbling, hell, yelling. "It's after 9 o'clock! We're waiting." Were we about to witness some yarnplace violence? Eventually, the line began to move, glacially. Luckily, I had my order completed (but I still made changes) and I moved through the process pretty well. Whit wasn't so lucky--she had the volunteer from hell and her purchases took forever. NOTE TO MDSW VOLUNTEER COORDINATOR: The volunteers assisting buyers with purchases should NOT be color-blind. When you tell the guy, "I'd like the green one," you really don't want to be handed first purple, then taupe, then gray. ANOTHER TIP TO VOLUNTEER COORDINATOR: Please ask your volunteers (and, yes, we really do appreciate them and we do understand they're volunteers, not paid), to come a little early for training.

(10) Okay, we've got our stuff. Debra took off like a scalded cat looking for swag, Whit and I made a quick run to the car with our purchases (based on a tip from Debbie--thanks, Deb!), and Joyce toodled off in the direction of the main building. We made a plan to meet for lunch (everyone but Debra who was on her own mission) and off we went. (Watching Debra's dust in the distance turned out to be a trend for the weekend.)

(11) Food: Lamb, lamb, lamb. Wonderful, juicy, tasty. Tip: If you're not a meat eater, or if you can't deal with hearing about little baby lambies being eaten, skip this part. But this is, after all, an agricultural festival and farmers have a pretty basic view of the whole process, and we tried to embrace the concept. I had grilled lamb and lamb kabobs. We also checked out the burgers and the gyros. Then we added lemonade, ice cream, and those wonderful potato-chip thingies with cheese. Then we had more. Delicious, and a good variety.

(12) Animals: What a wonderful experience. Sheep, goats, alpacas, llamas, angora bunnies. Lots of animals to pet and talk to, some just to watch in awe. Some in pens, some in their owners' arms, some in the judging arenas, some patiently waiting their turns, others being groomed and sheared.

(13) Yarn: Oh, my gosh! Some commercial yarns, much home-grown. I bought way too much (list to follow), but the highlight was some gorgeous chocolate brown alpaca from Thistledown Alpacas. Go to the website to see the picture of Thistledown's Myfanwy. I bought two skeins of her championship yarn and it's the softest stuff you can imagine. By the way, her name is pronounced Mu-vane-way.

Here's the photo of our spoils from Saturday. We piled it all on the bed that night:

Excessive? Yes. Your point? Well, we were all pretty sure we wouldn't be buying much the next day, just "filling in the gaps." Hello ..... what were we thinking?

(14) Back at the hotel, we found Debbie and Linda! Linda had learned how to knit that day and was forging ahead on a swatch. We couldn't believe what beautiful, even stitches she was making--she's obviously a natural! We all sat around and knit for awhile, and then off to bed. D&L were leaving in the morning so we wouldn't see them again--until next year!

(15) Sunday, more of the same. We packed up early (Tip from Debbie and Debra: bring an extra collapsible suitcase--yes, you WILL need it.) ANOTHER TIP FROM DEBRA: Now, make sure that the suitcase will be large enough to hold the large picture you bought. This time we got to the fairgrounds about 8:30 and the place was full. (Don't believe the people who tell you that Sunday is a much lighter day.)

(16) Airport, and home bound.

(17) Debra got greedy and tried to bring home a little more of the festival then we wanted:

(18) Finally, one last piece of fun. We greeted Debra's intrepid husband, who was there to schlep all our stuff home) thusly (here's Whit, and yes, those are sheep ears she's wearing):

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