Coming to town for Maryland Sheep and Wool--May 5-6 at the Howard County Fairgrounds? Woohoo! Hope to see you there! I've put together this quick guide for festival visitors about how to make the most of Sheep and Wool AND what to do when you're not at the festival.
Sheep and Wool Festival
- Bring cash! Unlike in years past, the festival now charges an entrance fee. It's a very reasonable $5 per person 18+, and well worth it to keep the festival running. You can also buy them online in advance, but watch out for additional fees.
- Dress in layers--weather around here this time of year is hard to predict. It could be rainy and cool, sunny and hot or anything in between (the current forecast is cloudy, chance of rain and low 70s both days). So pack an umbrella and your sunscreen. It's unlikely to be cold enough for a sweater (although you never know!), but a shawl wouldn't hurt! And wear sturdy shoes--even if it's not actively raining at the Festival, it's likely to be muddy.
- Bring a blanket. Especially if you have kids, there are plenty of nice grassy areas to sit down for a rest or have a little picnic, but you'll want something to sit on. Don't try to crowd into the popular area by the stage--scout out the areas by the barns for a little peace and quiet.
- Pack healthy snacks. The food has been steadily improving over the years, but fair food and lamb are still in heavy rotation. So if you want something that's not deep fried or, like me, are mildly horrified by watching cute lambs trot around then seeing them rotating on a spit, bring some granola bars, fruit, pretzels and other less-greasy fare. And WATER!
- Plan ahead--download the vendor guide so you know where everyone is!
- Arrive early if you want exclusives. Especially for the busy booths like Jennie the Potter, you'll have the best luck if you get in line early. Crowds also die down toward the end of the day, but by then, pickings can be slim. You can also try shopping during lunch!
- Don't stand in line for things you can buy online! It's easy to get caught up in festival fever, but if you stand in line all day at the Miss Babs booth, you'll miss out on some gems elsewhere. So if you get a coveted show-exclusive colorway, by all means, queue up. But if you've just got things you can get in the online shop, it's not worth the wait just to save $6 on shipping.
- Don't forget the outdoor vendors! The outside tents, especially in the lower corral, are sometimes seen as afterthoughts, but some great vendors are out there--like Dragonfly Fibers and Neighborhood Fiber Co!
The Sheep and Wool Festival itself is not near much of anything, but you're fairly close to Baltimore, Washington, D.C., and Frederick, so when you're not at the Festival, you can find plenty to keep you busy.
- Want to grab a meal outside? The fairgrounds are a bit isolated, but Columbia and Ellicott City, Maryland are only about 20 minutes away and both have a number of restaurants. Try Victoria Gastro Pub (a little more upscale) or Eggspectation (great for kids)!
- The Knot House Indie Pop-up Shop. Kicks off Friday night and runs all weekend long in Frederick, MD, about 30 minutes from the fairgrounds. Check out yarns from awesome indie dyers and have fun visiting historic downtown Frederick, which is full of quirkly shops and amazing restaurants (I recommend Isabella's for tapas, Cacique for Mexican(ish) and Firehouse for brunch). I'll be at the pop-up shop Friday evening--hope to see you there!
- Also in Frederick, Dami of Magpie Fibers is hosting an open house at her studio Saturday night, featuring YOTH Yarns. And Shalimar Yarns, about 10 minutes away in New Market, is celebrating its 10th anniversary with special events on Friday and Saturday too.
- Booze it up! If you're a beer person, do NOT miss the Flying Dog Brewery (sorry, no kids allowed). And if you're a wine lover, you must check out Black Ankle Vineyards (kid friendly!).
- Play tourist in Baltimore. The Orioles are out of town (and terrible this year), but there's still plenty to see and do in Baltimore. The Inner Harbor is the default visitor's area because it has scenic views, shopping and restaurants all clumped together, but I personally suggest getting outside your comfort zone. Take the water taxi over to Fells Point, grab lunch or dinner and stroll those cobblestone streets. Or drive a bit north of downtown and visit Hampden--hons and hipsters make one happy family. If you do stick by the Harbor, don't miss the chance to climb up Federal Hill and take in the view!
- The Maryland Film Festival runs May 2 - 6, so movie buffs might want to check that out!
- Visit Alexandria, VA. You could visit all the usual monuments and museums in D.C., but, especially if you've done it before, I think your time is better spent just outside the Nation's Capital in Alexandria. And not just because of Fibre Space (but definitely visit!). Like Frederick, Alexandria's downtown area is full of history, fun shops and great eating. Plus, you can stroll down to the waterfront and walk along the Potomac.
Got more tips? Share in the comments!
Have a great time at the Festival--I'll be there Saturday and Sunday (although exactly when depends on the rain!), so if you see me, say hi!