Bethany submitted this report from her first trip to Rhinebeck this year:
When I found my way back to knitting in 2010, whenever I was around knitters I kept hearing one word spoken with reverence: Rhinebeck. I soon learned that this was knitter speak for the annual New York Sheep & Wool Festival held at the Duchess County Fair Grounds in Rhinebeck, NY. About the same time when I was cruising the 746.432 shelves of my local library (aka knitting wonderland) I stumbled on a book by Joanne Seif. Her book, Fiber Gathering: Knit, Crochet, Spin, and Dye More than 25 Projects Inspired by America’s Festivals, is simply amazing. The pictures and details about the festivals will make you want to attend each one. When a friend mentioned she wanted to go to Rhinebeck too, a plan was born.
Many knitters are veteran attendees and have tried and true techniques for getting the most out of the festival. We had no such plan of attack. We secured a reservation at a hotel in Poughkeepsie in February and then counted down the months until it was finally October 14. The six hour drive to Rhinbeck, NY went smoothly. Too early to check in to our hotel, we headed to the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park. I had read a post by Anne Hanson where she blogged about the Apple Café which does not require reservations. We decided to go check it out. We had a 45 minute wait in line before getting into the café to place our orders. A staffer offered a tip that it was best to come early as the café is open from 11 a.m. – 5p.m, or later. Of course we had arrived in the middle of the rush. Other than the food, the most incredible thing was the lavender growing at the four corners of the courtyard in front of the main building where butterflies fluttered lazily. Even an i-phone got a National Geographic worthy picture.
Saturday morning, naively thinking that all fiber festivals open at the same time (as we were seasoned Maryland Sheep and Wool attendees), we left Poughkeepskie at 7:30 a.m. and headed for the fair grounds. There was no backed up traffic, the lights stayed green, and we got an amazing parking spot on a fairly empty hill. This is when we realized something was wrong. As we stepped out of the car, we learned the festival opened at 9 a.m. At the same time, I heard my name called. There was Cindy and her sister – a fibre space™ welcome in the middle of Rhinebeck, NY!
I bumped into Cindy, her sister and several others that I knew from Ravelry, once again standing in line to enter a particularly hot booth. The line was already about 20 people deep waiting for the festival’s official opening. At 9 a.m., a swarm of knitters invaded the small booth and then the truly crazy line began – the payment line. One woman’s husband stood in line for two hours while she enjoyed the festival. Talk about enabling a yarn addict love!
I saw my first fuzz ball angora rabbit and met Nike, the alpaca who was one of a group of alpacas who stood around for petting. He was the alpha male of the group and had the coarsest fiber. There were sheep being groomed for the judges, blue ribbon sheared sheep and Corriedale sheep who also had the best marketing (see below).
I’ve heard it’s a Rhinebeck tradition to wear a finished sweater but space in my suitcase was limited so I wore my Springtime Bandit instead (which I finished recently using one skein of Neighborhood Fiber Company Worsted). It did a great job of keeping the chill at bay and got a lot of compliments throughout the day. I was just as busy giving out compliments as I was completely surrounded by mind boggling knit wear. Mitts, sweaters, shawls, hats, and skirts like Knitty’s Lane Splitter. I saw five and they all looked fantastic even though their creators were different heights and sizes.
I lost count of all the vendors that I visited and the food I tried because there were so many choices. The lamb vendors were located in a group downhill from the cider donuts. The fried artichokes were across from the main food vendors where spaghetti on a stick was selling well. On Sunday to counter some of the festival food indulgences I walked across the longest elevated pedestrian bridge in the world known as the Walkway over the Hudson. Check out some of the breathtaking views here.
Having survived my first Rhinebeck, I am looking forward to attending next May’s Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival. If you’ve never been to a fiber festival before it would be a shame to miss it!