The New York Sheep and Wool Festival is held every year on the third full weekend of October at the Dutchess County Fairgrounds in Rhinebeck, New York. More information is available on the festival web site. In 2009, it provided an opportunity for us to bring some of our sheep east from Oregon and to start showing them to the sheep and wool fans. For Martin and Joy, the festival is a place to meet old and new friends and clients and to bring some of their sheep for the show. They offered to include a couple of our 50:50 wethers in the trailer. Being small, they could fit in among the other sheep almost for free.
Shortly before the weekend of the festival, we realized that there would be no place for our sheep to stay. The festival rules did not allow them to be in the show barn with the other sheep that Martin and Joy were bringing because they were not going to be in the show. They would have to stay in the trailer in the parking lot.
This seemed less than ideal so we checked out some other possibilities. There was a breed display barn and an inquiry revealed they had space. This seemed ideal so we signed up. The reply email listed the requirements for sheep in the display barn. It seems that sheep in the display barn are expected to be accompanied by posters, handouts, and other paraphernalia. This all came to light less than a week before the festival and Ray and Karen had signed up to attend a woodcarving workshop for Monday through Saturday. A little midnight oil, information from our business plan, and the local Kinko’s produced a poster and handouts.
We had to skip the Saturday woodcarving session (our owls were missing a few details on their feathers) and left immediately after the Friday session to head for the festival. We arrived in time for a late dinner with Joy and Martin who had gotten our sheep (and theirs) settled at the fairgrounds.
Saturday morning we headed from our hotel in Kingston, NY across the Hudson to the fairgrounds. We found Joy grooming our sheep in their pen. It seems that, being little, our sheep were underneath the larger sheep as they ate hay dribbling the excess onto the backs of our sheep while traveling from Oregon to New York.
We scrounged a table and a bale of hay to hold our poster and set out our handouts as people started to arrive. Karen fielded questions for several hours before getting a break. We had heard while setting up that the displays were going to be judged. Probably everybody else in the barn was aware of this and had taken steps to make their displays attractive and informative. To us, however, it was a surprise. We had good information and a nice poster, but everything else was completely spontaneous. Nevertheless, we garnered a seventh place ribbon and a small prize.
We had been told that there were to be no sales in the display barn so we were not actively trying to sell our sheep. But, after Joy mentioned to Ray how nice it would be if she didn’t have to drive those little guys back to Oregon, Ray encouraged Karen to not reject any offers to buy the sheep. Sure enough, we did get an offer. We suggested a price and made a deal. Maybe we should have suggested a higher price — we will never know. After the festival ended on Sunday, our two wethers went to live on a farm near the fairgrounds in Rhinebeck, New York. We went home with a check for our first Ouessant sheep sales.