Thursday, September 17, 2015

Fiber and friends

Exhilarating and exhausting, fiber festivals provide rich experiences.

Marudai with 16 bobbins
If you've been to one fiber show, you've been to one fiber show. There are many shows and they all share the common thread of enthusiasm, but each is unique, reflecting its location, organizer and attendees. For smaller shows, in particular, this is the place to find local craftspeople with products. Kind of like farm markets for fiber. 

The business model is not new. Plan an event and capitalize on access to the target market--in this case, sheep and wool. Selling booth space to vendors who serve that market is the simplest and, at a minimum, event organizers underwrite operational expenses with booth sales. 

I'm not privy to the Garden State Sheep Breeders' business plan for its 21st annual Garden State Sheep and Fiber Festival, but I suspect they're happy to break even.

A convenient festival

Last weekend featured near-perfect weather for the Festival held just north of Lambertville, NJ. Unlike 2014 when the weather was brutally hot, the weather this year was near perfect. Only a couple of downpours marred the clear, fall days. 

One attendee noted the convenience factor. To put that into context, its location is midway between two huge Northeastern region sheep and wool shows--Dutchess County in New York, aka Rhinebeck, and Maryland. Both feature hundreds of vendors, thousands of attendees and millions of products. Great experiences, both, but long drives and large crowds can exhaust the most energetic.

Winter's Past Farm
Garden State Sheep & Fiber Festival 2015
Back to convenience. That assessment was based on three factors. One, the location in Mid-Jersey is easy to get to. Two, crowds weren't overwhelming. There was space to walk and time to talk and to make purchasing decisions. 

And three, the range of offerings from the nearly 80 vendors listed in the show brochure covered just about anything you might want or need to quench your fiber thirst. The number of participating vendors continues to grow, filling two barns this year. 

There were educational experiences and lots of inspiration. Plenty of yarn, fleece, roving, tools and equipment. Add to that a host of competitions, sheep shows and demonstrations--cooking, shearing, sheep dog herding, and more. Even if you weren't shopping for yarn (can't imagine that!), the Festival offers a day for family fun. (And, no, I have no ties to the group.)

Behind the (non-existent) counter

Kris planned to simplify set-up this year. She did it and in the process, opened up the space for browsers, for serious buyers, and for folks who stopped by to say, "Hello" or to chat. We both liked the configuration.

Pat, an online spinner friend
For me, there are three main reasons for being at a show like this. One, I am inspired. That's a big one. Two, I get to share my fiber love with other like-minded people. 

And three, I can stand in one place and meet both old friends and new. There are some I only see rarely and others I've met online. I was pleased to see Kae--the one who crocheted the beautiful shawl in autumn colors for the 4-H Fair last month--but furious with myself that I didn't take a photo! Especially since she sports an edgy new hair do. 

Another highlight was Pat. We share a history of learning to spin rather independently. Although we live near each other, we had never met in person. I was so pleased she stopped by.

The morning after

I hate to admit it, but I hereby publicly confess: I felt the weekend feat on Monday. But a couple of good nights' sleep later, my enthusiasm is growing fast for the upcoming the King's County Fiber Festival on Oct. 10 in Brooklyn. Love that show. Love the street, i.e., people traffic. But even more than the fiber fun, the all time highlight is seeing family who live there! 

Near Brooklyn? Do stop and see us! 

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