Warming up for Maryland

Travel: a shift in environments

Yesterday as we prepared to leave Colorado for Maryland, we drove toward the airport in quite a May Day snowstorm. This is what it looked like through the window of the van that took us from off-airport parking to the terminal:


Our flight was delayed by an on-ground detour to the de-icing area.

The rest of the journey went well, and by supper time we were on the ground in Baltimore.

This morning’s class on some technicalities of wool

This morning, after (free, hot) breakfast in the hotel lounge area, I headed over to the fairgrounds for a morning class called Wool Science 201, taught by Robert Padula, who’s a Wool Quality Improvement Consultant. He works with the American Sheep Industry Association, which is the commercially oriented advocate of sheep-raising in the United States. (He personally raises Targhees, with an emphasis on . . . wool quality.)

The class was taught primarily from the perspective of the wool industry’s, rather than handspinners’, needs, a difference that was acknowledged and interesting to observe. Handspinners have a lot to learn from industry, although the information we need is usually buried in masses of data. One of the things I like to do is find the spinner-useful bits and pull them out and play with them, or to act as a kind of translator between the sides. This morning was extremely valuable from that perspective. It’s going to take some time to digest all that I got introduced to or, in several cases, finally found answers to . . . data that resolved several questions I’ve been researching with only moderate success got laid out right in front of me.

My trip’s already been 100 percent wortwhile, and I haven’t been here twenty-four hours yet.

(While looking for links for Bob Padula, I found a nifty article in the New York Times about Morehouse Farm, where they understand both sides of the equation—industry’s and spinners’—and have found their own unique way to balance in between.)

The festival prepares

Backing up a bit to before the class: I arrived a little early at the fairgrounds and took photos of the "before-festival" atmosphere.

This morning, there was lots of parking available:


I parked about fifty feet past the truck and the bus, maybe five cars from the main gate. I briefly pondered what it would be like if I could reserve my parking space for tomorrow as well (maybe leave the car here and hitchhike back to the hotel, and get here the same way in the morning?). Exhibitors’ parking is great. But the exhibitors need it a lot more than the visitors do, no matter what we visitors may think from time to time.


Here’s the rabbit building, just inside the main gate, where the two fairgrounds-based Ravelry gatherings will take place (11:30 to 1 on Saturday, 1 to 2:30 on Sunday) . . . apparently a thousand people are in the Ravelry MD S&W group. I’m sure that a bunch of folks who participate in Ravelry will be at the festival but have not joined that group, and there are also the Ravelry-interested. The space could end up pretty crowded, but it looks like it’s semi-expandable and won’t be overly claustrophobic.


Here’s the lawn outside building V (now Main), where the Save the Sheep project idea began in 1998:


Here’s what the inside of building V (Main) looked like this morning at about 8:45:


The Interweave space that I spent so much time in between 1993 and 1999 is halfway down the lefthand outside wall. Amy Clarke Moore, who’s now the editor of Spin-Off, will be spending her weekend there again this year. It’s really a nice home base.

Those who have been at the festival know that this space will be crammed by the same time tomorrow . . . with exhibitors . . . and about 15 minutes later it will also be crammed with visitors.

Right now, it’s open enough to fit big trucks in the aisles. As I was walking around today, I was reminded of how well the companies that rent cars, trucks, and trailers must like the festival, if they know enough about to realize why their business is looking so good this week:


That’s looking down just one of the two aisles of the main building.

And something new since the last time I was here:


There was another ATM unit by the main gate, with two terminals, in a mobile trailer. There may be more scattered around. I’ll bet they see even more use than the porta-potties.

Some of the vendors stay in local motels, but others vendors and shepherds camp out in the vendor-specific parking area. As I walked by this morning, a parent was getting three kids breakfast. So this, like the other parking areas within the gated area adjacent to the buildings, is also a type of home base for the exhibitors:


There were two people putting up a banner that said "Welcome to the 35th anniversary Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival":


I love that there are both black and white sheep on the banner. The presence of the black sheep reflects the handspinners’ presence and influence in the mix, although this festival has an equally strong industry focus. Black sheep aren’t of much use to industrial producers of wool. Black fibers (or fibers of any color other than white), prized by handspinners, are classified as contaminants when wool is bulk-processed. If industry wants black or another color, it can dye white wool to get it; colored fibers, on the other hand, mar whites and pastels and brights, also dyed.

Here’s another pre-festival sight—no lines for the bathrooms:


And here’s a ram getting its pre-show grooming. The judging he’ll face will be on factors other than the fleece, which is trimmed to make the animal as a whole look great, by industry standards, and he does indeed look so fine:


Lots of the exhibitors know each other, both from connections outside the festival and from coming here year after year. I miss the pre-opening (and post-festival) camaraderie as much as anything.

And I miss the sheep, so I went to visit a few:


And that lovely face (a colored Lincoln) represents the spinners’ side of the sheep world at Maryland.

Whenever I’d get a break from the booth, I’d go recharge my batteries by taking a stroll through the barns. I saw about twenty different breeds this morning, and only a quarter to a third of the stalls were occupied.

By noon, the booth set-up had proceeded significantly, a few of the food vendors had opened up to serve the exhibitors and workshop attendees, and the working folk had begun to walk around the grounds a bit:


It’s all getting ready. . . .


1 thought on “Warming up for Maryland”

  1. Wow, I’d never seen it before it was “full up” with people! Thanks for the before and after shots. I hope, now that it’s Sunday, that you’ve gotten your treats and had a little less crowding today…

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