At the back of the market place in the Festival venue you will find rows of tables holding bags of wonderful raw fleeces. By the time the Festival opens to the public, these fleeces will have been carefully sorted, examined, and judged; and are ready for sale in the silent auction.
Ribbons are awarded in seven different classes. Three Grand Champions will be awarded from White wools, Coloured Wools and Specialty wools classes. Supreme Champion will be awarded to the highest overall scoring fleece. There is also a Spinners’ Choice award that you all get to vote for!
Canadian Co-operative Wool Growers Ltd generously sponsors the cash prizes for the winning fleeces. We are very grateful for their support of the Festival every year.
The wool show comes together largely through the efforts of volunteer Gerry Oliver, who contacts producers, organizes the paperwork and assists the judge. Gerry also raises sheep and her fleeces have won awards at many shows in Canada. Other Festival volunteers help during the judging. In fact this is one of the most popular volunteer assignments.* As one volunteer put it “I learned so much doing this I would pay for the experience!” **
For the first four years of the Festival our judge was Susie Gourlay, who you may also know as a designer and teacher, and a vendor at her Knit Natural booth. This year we welcome Val Fiddler as the wool show judge.
The judge’s comment sheets are displayed with each fleece so prospective buyers can assess its qualities. The silent auction runs from 5:00 pm on Friday until 3:00 pm on Saturday. Purchasers need to be on site at that time to pay the producer and collect the fleece.
The wool show is one of the ways in which the Festival connects fibre farmers with people who want to buy local wool. The entry fee for each fleece is $10. Full details on entering the show are here. Producers can also enter fleeces into the auction alone (not the judging) for $5.00.
Even if you aren’t in the market for a fleece, do take time to visit the show. Watching a shearing demonstration and admiring the raw fleeces will give you a good understanding of where your yarn comes from. You may just be tempted to try the whole satisfying process yourself.
* The volunteer slots for the wool show are filled for this year, but there are other assignments available.
**Want to learn more about fleece qualities and preparation? Take the Fleece to Finish workshop with Susie on Friday afternoon.