JEFFERSON — The Sheep and Wool Fest, which usually sees around 7,000 to 8,000 attendees, will be back in full form this weekend after a year operating in a minimal, modified format last year due to the pandemic.
The event, now in its 21st year, opens Friday Sept. 10 at Jefferson County Fair Park and runs through the weekend.
Bob Black of Columbus, chairman of the event, said that organizers hope to see good crowds for the 2021 fest, which features vendors, classes, exhibits, a sheep show, wool competition, “Make it with Wool” fiber arts competition and sheep dog trials.
The event, hosted by the Wisconsin Sheep Breeders Cooperative, usually draws 7,000 to 8,000 people — plus around 600 sheep — from around the Midwest and across the country, Black said.
Last year, with the COVID-19 pandemic ongoing and no vaccines yet available to the public, the organization held a modified fest with no vendors, just the sheep show and dog trials.
This year, the sheep show and dog trails will return, as will the vendors who will fill the fest’s “Country Store,” in two large buildings on the fairgrounds.
Also returning will be a full slate of Wonders of Wool fiber arts classes, with 700 people registered. Classes touch on various aspects of the fiber arts, from spinning to weaving to felting to specific craft projects.
“Our fiber arts students represent around 20 states,” Black said.
The “Make It With Wool” contest also will return, with judging taking place the Saturday morning of the fest.
The only major aspect of past fests that will not be returning this year is the “Wooly U” for kids, similar to the Wonders of Wool fiber arts classes but specifically aimed at children 12 and under.
Many areas of the fest are seeing registrations on a par with past years, Black said, although the sheep show entries are down a bit from a usual year.
Though class registrations are full, visitors are welcome to the overall event to see the sheep competitions, shearing demonstrations, breed exhibits, newborn lambs and panoply of vendors that will be on site.
With COVID-19 still raging across the country, “It’s been a challenge to get the event back on track, but we’re trying to bring it back as close to normal as we can get,” Black said.
With vaccines available for all above the age of 11, organizers felt it was safe to hold the full fest again, with some additional protections in place to prevent the spread of the virus.
Most of the event is held outside or in large, open and well-ventilated buildings, so that makes it safer, Black said. Masks will not be required, although he noted that the Jefferson County Health Department does strongly recommend that all people, vaccinated or not, wear masks indoors to protect public health.
Tickets to the Sheep and Wool Fest cost $10 at the gate per day or $20 for a pass that covers the whole three-day event.