Open wide, and say "Baaaaaa"
by Meg Cicciarella
Estes Park, Colo.
Spin it. Weave it. Knit it. Even eat, ride or milk it! The annual Estes Park, Colo.,Wool Market, has something for everyone.
You name it. From sheep to llamas, alpacas, goats, rabbits and even a yak. The only animals without useable fiber fur are the border collies, which demonstrate their fine herding talents.
With a mission of creating an event to attract visitors earlier in the summer season, former Stanley Park Fairgrounds special events coordinator, spinner and weaver Linda Hinze, rounded up a handful of local fiber enthusiasts. Twelve years ago, they spun the idea for the first annual Estes Park Wool Market. Since then, it’s become the country’s largest fiber show.
“At the time, there was the Maryland Sheep Festival, and a fiber show in Kalamazoo, Mich., and of course, the Taos Fiber Festival,” said Hinze, now Stanley Park Fairgrounds’ director of special events. “But none of these shows combined fiber and exhibiting animals, and since we had the Fairgrounds, we thought, ‘let’s do animals.’ “
Each volunteer drew on their fiber expertise and soon, the Estes Park Wool Market had workshops, a vendor fair, a wool sheep show, and judging for llamas and angora goats. Initially the Wool Market featured llamas, sheep, goats and rabbits, and by 1992, alpacas were added. Over the years, llamas, alpacas and goats have dominated the entries.
“We’ve had as many as 389 llamas entered in one year, and as few as three llama fleeces entered. This year we had 174 llama fleeces and 217 alpaca fleeces,” Hinze said.
“We run the Wool Market like a county fair,” Hinze said. “The animals are shown in conformation and wool classes, and the llamas and alpacas also have a performance class. Rabbits don’t show.” The performance classes highlight the animals’ packing abilities.
The Wool Market is still run by volunteers and no entry fees are charged, though there is a small charge for parking inside the Fairgrounds.
“We had 9,100 people attend the 2001 Wool Market,” Hinze said. “As long as we can, we want to keep it free and open to the public.”
Young and old, families and singles alike attend and exhibit at the Estes Park Wool Market. Esta Paeltz, of Luther, Okla., raises llamas. At the 2001 Wool Market, her prize-winning 2-year-old brown Appaloosa, “CTW Bandello,” stood calmly beside Esta’s mom, Angie, after their halter class, getting back into her groove after taking first place in the light wool division. Llamas can also compete in the medium or heavy wool categories.
“I told my dad three years ago, ‘I want a llama!’ and I went out and got one,” said 14-year-old Esta. Now she’s got 18 roaming their ranch near Oklahoma City. “They really don’t require much work,” said her mother.
Jeanine Gluklick was another 2001 exhibitor. Gluklick raises cashmere goats and sells fiber in Colorado Springs, Colo. “Once we got some acreage, I just had to have goats,” she said. “A friend said, ‘Why get pygmies, when you can have a small goat with this great fiber?’ So I started with cashmere goats.” Goats are a family affair for Jeanine, her daughter and husband, who were exhibiting for the second time.
They brought goats to show as well as kids to sell.
Sheep shearing, spinning, a children’s tent packed with spinning wheels ” Sleeping Beauty’s nightmare come true ” even a “sheep to shawl” demonstration were just some of the activities on the agenda. A vendors’ tent displayed the winning bagged, raw fleece from a variety of animals, as well as yarns of all types, supplies and tools, and fiber products of all sorts.
The 2002 Estes Park Wool Market will be held June 15 and 16, with workshops June 13 and 14. Estes Park is the gateway to the Rocky Mountain National Park, located approximately 90 miles northwest of Denver.
For exhibitor information for next year’s show, call (970) 586-6104.
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It’s time for Colorado meat producers to throw down the gauntlet.