This year, our 48th, is once again a virtual online festival.
Once again, this year we had to do the responsible thing and limit the festival to a virtual online version. It was about a year ago we had to make the hard decision to cancel the 2020 festival. I never thought we would forgo another in-person festival. It’s been a heck of a year and I feel like I’m living Groundhog Day where every day is the same – we’re stuck in a time loop. Some may say it’s only the second time, but I feel like it’s been forever. I truly look forward to the excitement leading up to the festival and the energy I get from seeing the crowds and talking to as many folks as possible. At the risk of sounding too bummed, I can say there have been some learning moments in the planning and results from our virtual festival last year that will make this year’s festival a better virtual experience. The festival website became a portal for participants to reach our vendors and shepherds that have an online presence, whether it was through a Facebook page or website. The feedback from vendors was very positive, many experiencing sales exceeding all expectations, and even some traffic jams on our website – which, since we have already lived it once, shouldn’t happen again.
Unlike last year, this year we had enough advance warning that we were able to arrange for our seminars to be taught online. Personally, I’d like to see the online seminars continue even when we are all gathering in person, and the same for some version of an online marketplace. People have likely been able to participate in our seminars and marketplace that normally could not, due to distance and the limited ability to travel. Let’s all persevere and be resilient, and we will be back together next year, better than ever. I am so looking forward to seeing everyone and soaking up the good energy – but meanwhile, we can enjoy this “Apart Yet Together” (version 2.0) Festival and again rise to the challenge!
Take care and stay well!
Jeff White, President, Maryland Sheep Breeders Association
Throughout this unprecedented year, unlike any we’ve ever known, what has kept me grounded and sane is time spent with my lambs, my dogs and my community of fiber artist and shepherding friends. Whether holding afternoon Zoom chats, masking up for socially distanced studio visits, or helping each other out on shearing day, these things helped provide a small sense of normality and much needed consistency in a world gone mad. I hope the festival, although virtual, will do the same for you.
Gwen Handler, Chairperson, Maryland Sheep & Wool Festival