It is Wool Show time again. The Australian Sheep and Wool Show is a big shebang in these parts and runs over three days. It has been run annually since 1877!
The Wool Show is a place were you can see all kinds of sheep including Merino, Polwarth, Corridale, Poll Dorset, Dorper, White Suffolk, Dorset Downs, Romney, Drysdale, Dorset Horn, Hampshire Downs, Ryeland, Perendale, East Friesian, Shropshire, Border Leicester, English Leicester, Cheviot and Finnsheep. You can watch the judging of these sheep and actually talk to the farmers who raised them.
You can mostly tell the farmers by their pale moleskins, navy polarfleeces and polished tan elastic-sided boots. Men and women turned out handsomely for this special weekend. There is a Sunday best vibe at the Show. The felters wear their most flamboyant creations and the knitters, their best shawls, hats and jumpers. The fibrecrafters all look at each other’s garments and walk up to complete strangers to compliment them. There is a kind and joyful frisson in the air.
There are carving and cooking demonstrations where you may partake of the meaty things. You can see gun shearers effortlessly reclining enormous sheep and clipping their fleece in a couple of minutes with nary a nick or a twitch. This is not just for show either, this is for the Sports Shearing and Wool Handling Competition. The shearing shed is always packed and tense, the air is heavy with the smell of fleece and warm tomato sauce.
The Australian Fleece Competition also takes place during the show. I love seeing the open bags of crimpy locks topped with a ribbon. Rams with woolly testicles the size of melons are gathered together for the Ram Sale and bright eyed, hard staring dogs lean quivering into the Sheep Dog trials, ears rotating like radars.
There are vast sheds filled with everything from dried lemon myrtle to hand shaped metal alpaca biscuit cutters to olive oil soap. Then of course there are the Woolcraft sheds housing various spinning guilds, felting and weaving demonstrations, the Woolcraft Competition and yarn and fibre sellers.
The Wool Show is the place to buy yarn or fibre from a person who actually raised the sheep, perhaps helped to birth it and certainly dealt with its health and feeding. They see the fleece shorn, sent off for scouring and spinning and they have probably done the skeining. These farmers persevere against the odds to bring low-processed, breed-specific yarns and fibres into the marketplace. So do support them with your patronage.
Although I did manage to get some entries in for the Woolcraft competition, I am not able to attend the actual show days this year. So tell me about your visit, if you managed to get there. I would also be keen to hear about Wool Shows in other countries. Are they similar or different to this one?