preparing for sheep and wool

It’s autumn and that means the fall sheep & wool festival season. These events are fun for the entire family but can be overwhelming the first time (and ever after).

This post shares my tips for attending a festival in person. I walked many trade shows before I went to my first sheep and wool and thought a fiber festival would be the same. While there are similarities, I find the differences can either make it exciting and fun or a draining lesson that ends in frustration. My first sheep and wool experience was over fifteen years ago and I cried on the drive home, overwhelmed by everything I’d seen and experienced.

At the time I didn’t know to adapt my trade show tools to help me prepare or that I might need to decompress after. I first wrote this post to help share my experience over the years as an extremely shy socially anxious introvert. I have more tips specifically for trade shows.

The biggest difference I found is that a trade show is attended with a company budget, meanwhile fiber festival purchases come from your own pocket. That small shift changes the entire experience, even if your company is a solo enterprise. The result for me is I think through my purchases differently (read: even more angst). The dynamic of meetups and encounters change too. Meeting friends in a social context is very different than when you’re specifically thinking about work.


The third full weekend of October will be here before we know it, and that means the New York State Sheep and Wool Festival up near Rhinebeck, NY. This year’s show is October 20 and 21, 2023. Please note that any information written here specific to the festival may change. Please visit the official website to stay informed.

tips and advice to prepare

Note that many of the links are specific to Rhinebeck. The tips are useful for any festival.

  • First and foremost: remember we’re all on this same rock circling the sun together. Please be kind and respectful to everyone. Be kind.
  • If you want to save some money, purchase your ticket online.
  • Familiarize yourself with the map of the grounds, review the schedule, and take note of the vendor list. Remember that many vendors are solo or very small businesses and things happen. Be kind.
  • Wear comfortable shoes. You will be walking.
  • If you need mobility assistance, I recommend that you bring equipment from home (including rent at home and bring); I’m unsure if any services will be available at the Fairgrounds. Please contact the festival directly if you have specific questions or concerns.
  • The pathways at the Dutchess County Fairgrounds are mostly smooth and paved. They may also be crowded. The area is not flat, there are areas of incline (well, depending which direction you want to go). I recall some uneven terrain near the fiber sheds and some parking areas. If it rained recently there can be mud.
  • Be prepared for changes in weather. It could be 80°F. Or it could snow. On the same day. Wear/bring layers.
  • Please be sure to note the yarns and pattern of anything handmade that you’re wearing. You will be asked. Also be prepared that you may be asked where to find the yarn/pattern at the show.
  • If you need a break, take one! Be kind to yourself. Respect others needs for breaks too. If you can find the info, try to take a note of large group meet up times and locations so your quiet tree doesn’t suddenly become the center of attention.

tips and advice for the evening/day after

  • Prepare for an emotional release. Maybe you anticipated this event for a very long time. Perhaps there was disappointment or wonderful surprises. All of your emotions are valid.
  • Be kind to your feet.
  • See more at my post tips for after sheep and wool.

I hope these tips can help you enjoy a sheep and wool festival.

Note: some photos are from Maryland Sheep & Wool.

Additional Resources

This post was first published in 2014 and has been updated over the years and for 2023.

Reader interactions

2 Replies to “preparing for sheep and wool”

  1. Ha I g been to both the MD Sheep and Wool Festival and the NY Sheep and Wool Festival many times I do have a questions as things change all the time . Do you think it’s better to buy tickets ahead of time or get them at the Festival ? My daughter went to the MD Sheep and Wool Festival this past Spring, we live quite close to it we are one county over, and she said the lines to pick up pre paid tickets was quite long and she was able to walk right up to buy her ticket the day of.


    1. That’s a good question. It’s been several years since I’ve been to either festival (pre pandemic, and a long time in the case of Maryland). I don’t recall picking up tickets for Rhinebeck—it’s a digital ticket and I showed that at the entrance. As to which is better? It’s a matter of preference. Online tickets do offer a slight discount than paying at the gate.


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