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).
As we know, the pandemic has changed … everything. Some events have opted to go completely online, others are in-person, and a few have chosen a hybrid approach with both options available.
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. As of my writing this post (24th September), this year’s show is October 16 and 17, 2021 and will be a combination of on-site and online.
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 almost 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 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 are 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.
If you don’t feel comfortable attending an event in person right now, please don’t force yourself. Is it possible to still experience parts of the show? Yes–many talks and vendors are online. Unfortunately some things still aren’t possible, for example, I haven’t yet figured out how to pet a sheep through my computer, but that’s ok. Technology keeps evolving.
tips and advice to prepare
- First and foremost: remember we’re all on this same rock circling the sun together. Please be kind and respectful to everyone. You may not be able to do/purchase everything you’ve dreamt about for two years. Be kind.
- Take note of changes in protocol due to the pandemic. These may change between today and the event. Rhinebeck, has this FAQ page.
- Another change for this year, before you go, purchase your ticket. There are no gate tickets for the NY Sheep & Wool Festival this year.
- Plan ahead and review the vendor list, make a wish list of who to visit. Hopefully the map will be posted soon. Please keep in mind that a vendor may wait until the last minute to make an attendance-in-person decision. Be kind.
- Wear comfortable shoes. You will be walking. The grounds at the at the Dutchess County Fairgrounds is mostly smooth and paved, but there are a few areas of uneven terrain (including some parking areas). If it rained recently there can be mud.
- Be prepared for changes in weather. It could be 80°F in mid-October. Or it could snow. Wear 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, 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 for a very long time. Perhaps there was disappointment or surprises. All of your emotions are valid.
- Be kind to your feet.
- See more at tips for after sheep and wool.
While much has changed, I hope my tips can help you enjoy a sheep and wool festival.
Note: some photos are from Maryland Sheep & Wool.
A quick note that I don’t plan on attending in person this year.
This post was first published in 2014 and has been updated over the years and for 2021.