Woolapalooza is an annual celebration of all things sheep. Hosted by the Massachusetts Audubon Society, the event is held at Drumlin Farm in Lincoln, Mass. At the expansive farmyard grounds, lively youngsters darted from sheep barn to craft cabin, ogling animals and pointing at yarn. Most of those in attendance were parents or the very young—including the sheep, some of whom were only a few days old.
Though Drumlin Farm runs a number of year-round activities, “essentially everything is special for today,” according to Mimi R. Palmore, the farm’s marketing and interpretation coordinator. One of the day’s unique events was the extremely popular “sheep to sweater trail,” which reproduced every step of the wool-making process, from cleaning and carding the wool to dyeing and spinning it.
Though wool spinning may seem enchanting, wool experts are careful to distinguish their trade from depictions in tales like “Sleeping Beauty.” “That wasn’t actually this kind of wheel,” clarifies Marianne Neuman, a “teacher-naturalist” working one of the wheels. “That was a wheel that was used for spinning linen, which comes from flax.”
Other participants seem equally passionate about wool. “In our modern day… we’ve gotten away from some of the ‘earlier human roots’ way of eating and clothing ourselves and sheltering ourselves,” says Susannah Elliott, another teacher-naturalist. “So it’s neat to expose people to some sort of old-school human endeavors.”
Palmore emphasizes that education is the primary goal of Woolapalooza. “We like to show people the full process of where their things come from… where their clothing comes from, where their knitted beanies come from,” she says.
At that moment, the sheep-herding—Palmore’s favorite activity—began. In a nearby pasture, a woman set her Border Collie loose in a sizable pen of scattered sheep. After a few minutes, the tiny dog had driven his much larger compatriots into a small, fenced-in area. Palmore watched, mesmerized.
Then, at the end of the event, disaster struck: A small girl burst into tears.
“If you don’t stop crying,” her mother threatened, “I won’t take you to that other sheep farming festival next month.” The child fell silent.