The Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival is held the first Saturday and Sunday of May at the Howard County Fairgrounds in West Friendship Maryland. It is one of the largest such festivals east of the Mississippi. More information on the festival is available on the festival website.
One of the highlights is the breed display barn which tries to bring together as many different breeds of sheep as possible so sheep enthusiasts can see them all in one location. We convinced the folks in charge of the breed display that our sheep were novel and worthy of a place in the barn despite their being only 50% Ouessant.
Our sheep arrived from Oregon (via California) on a truck with other sheep on Thursday before the festival. We arrived ourselves a bit later from Massachusetts. Four of the sheep had been left on a farm nearby, but three were in the pen designated for the “Quessant” breed (notice the “Q” instead of “O”). After promises to correct the spelling were overtaken by more pressing concerns of the breed display organizers, we applied some white, self-adhesive labels over the offending tail on the “Q”. The sheep seemed happy (they had apparently not noticed that the name of their breed had been misspelled).
The next day, Friday, we set up our display. Being newbies at this sheep show thing, we were amazed at how well prepared others around us were and at how many things we had overlooked for our display. But, a trip to the nearest Staples provided help in organizing our handouts and other aspects of what we wanted visitors to see and learn. Our efforts led to winning a Champion ribbon for the minor breeds segment of the breed display.
Saturday morning found us getting a late start from where we were staying in Baltimore near the Pimlico racetrack back to the fairgrounds. While the nominal opening time for the festival was 9am, at 8:30, when we arrived, there was already a long line of cars trying get into the fairgrounds parking lot. Fortunately, the local constabulary and festival organizers kept things moving and it did not take too long to get in and make sure our sheep were ready.
We brought fresh water and tidied up the pen and our display and prepared to discuss our sheep with the festival-goers. There was a healthy amount of interest. But there were quiet moments went we felt we could leave and visit the other displays and other attractions. The day was quite warm, but fans in the barn kept the air moving and provided some relief.
Sunday was a bit hotter and quieter. Perhaps the sheep and wool aficionados came on Saturday leaving Sunday to those with a more cursory interest. We arrived to find that we now had seven sheep in the pen.
The sheep that were staying at a nearby farm had been brought to the fairgrounds to avoid an extra trip to pick them up after the festival ended. The 4 by 10 foot pen looked a little cramped with seven sheep, but it was not really a problem.
The Parade of Breeds was scheduled for noon. Participants in the breed display were strongly encouraged to walk their sheep around the show ring so everyone could see the various breeds all at the same time. Karen was not too happy with the prospect, but we lined up with the rest of the breeds each with one of the sheep that had been halter-trained back in Oregon by one of the little girls in the neighborhood. The sheep seemed to tolerate the ordeal pretty well.