Friday, August 29, 2008

Sheep to Shawl at New Mexico State Fair in the Ag Expo Grounds in Albuquerque!

Sheep to Shawl at New Mexico State Fair in the Ag Expo Grounds in Albuquerque!

Public Address systems are necessary when you have about 5 or 6 school classes and their attendant parents and teachers all piled up around the shearing pen which is 8 feet to the side. We always have the kids stacked just as deep as they can maybe see. I try hard to get the little ones to the front and have them sit in the grass, the next batch on knees and then the bit taller ones toward the back with adults at the outside ring. Have to out yell them so for me when I give the shearing talk, I just get some "mic feedback" to get their attention so I don't have to tell them to "HUSH, I am talking now!"

I have to spend the entire month of August getting my mind ready for these things. You cannot mention God or the Lord at all ever during these things. You cannot even say "damn" and darn just doesn't quite cut it either!! so I have to return to the curse language my son taught the little kids when he was a teacher's assistant. skiddlywhichatit or something like that. Any way something nonsensical!! It impresses the kids and they learn new language skills from adults, so why not give them a word they can use that gets smiles from their parents and teachers.

The demonstrations of shearing, spinning and weaving have been going on at the State Fair for about the past 40 years. I have been a part of it for 20 and co chair of the WoolGrowers committee for the past 15. Lloyd is the other co chair on the Shearing Demos and Mercedes Perez Cravens is the cochair and contact for the Weavers Guild. We are all WoolGrowers trying to interact with Las Aranas (the spiders) Spinning and Weaving Guild based in Albuquerque whose members are mostly town people 3 generations from the farms.

Nearly the whole month of September is devoted to the State Fair in New Mexico. The first half is the Youth Livestock Shows. There are only about 5000 4-H and FFA members dashing about with their feed buckets and show supplies. I know most of the 4-H agents and most of the FFA advisors from when my kids and they were all competing for the prizes at the fair. It is a huge hugg fest for me. I am the meeting place for anyone in these groups. It is called "Mrs Maness will take and pass messages and be responsible for any problems you may have no matter what they are!" "Meet me at the Shearing Pens at whatever hour" etc.

The second half of the fair is devoted to the Open Livestock Shows. There are some Junior peoples, under 18, who show Open Classes. But the frantic activity is gone this week. It is more the "professional" show people. And NO PIGS!!!! this part of the fair!

One of the more stupid questions I get during the second half of the fair is "Where are the Pigs?" Pig show is a Junior Livestock thing! It is not an Open Class thing. Pig show is terminal!! Meaning if the pig doesn't go home with the kid it is at the butcher or on the way there!

I serve as a double duty person at the Sheep to Shawl exhibit and demonstration! As a spinner or weaver I can sit at any wheel or loom on display and work and explain the workings of the machinery and how we get our clothing. I am also the WoolGrower on duty all day every day. I serve here as the "shop girl" who is knowlegable about the care and feeding of sheepskin pelts! I can also demonstrate the drop spindles and get people to buy them. Anything else anyone wants to know about the care of the woolen garments the demonstrators have for sale is known by me!! I do not ever touch the cash register! that thing is a booger, all computerized and messes up very easily!!

There must be a member of NM WoolGrowers on duty at all times that the shop is open. To be allowed to sell items in the shop a person must have made it themselves, spend at least 12 hours demonstrating the crafts, and be a member of either Las Aranas or NMWoolGrowers. Las Aranas chairman sets up the schedules and each shift is about 4 hours for the guild members. I really need more volunteers to be WoolGrower on duty, but cannot get people to commit to it. They will sign up then come saying "My child is showing in about half an hour, can you cover for me?" and they forget to come back and give me some relief.

Ok, Now back out to the Shearing Pens on the front lawn in front of the Livestock Pavilion or more familiarly known, the Dairy Barn!! We have people in Albuquerque area who have small flocks of sheep and don't mind having them shorn in the fall. Some of these sheep are the Churros who require shearing twice a year. We do one sheep every hour usually about a quarter till the hour. Pat Melendrez shears the sheep, Lloyd or someone talks about the shearing, history of sheep, history of sheep industry especially in New Mexico, and how the shearing is done on Ranches. We must get over the children who are on a field trip holiday from the classrooms, so the PA System works very well to out yell them.

Pat uses the new Heinigar Shearing motor which is a heck of a lot quieter than the old motors so it can actually be talked over! But is still much easier to use the microphone and be heard easily by the crowds. It also draws people when they hear the motor turn on and Lloyd say "Welcome to the Sheep to Shawl Shearing Demonstrations brought to you by Las Aranas Spinners and Weavers Guild and the New Mexico WoolGrowers Inc. Our shearer for today is Pat Melendrez from Las Vegas New Mexico, the sheep being shorn are Navajo Churro belonging to Dr.Barbara Miricle of Algodonez, New Mexico."

The shearing demo lasts about 5 minutes, then we have 10 minutes for questions then shoo all the kids in the building to Cody Lightfoot and the Milking Demonstration! When Cody gets through with his little 5 minutes of milking demonstration he has questions then heads the people across the hall to the Carding, Dying Spinning, Weaving, and Exotic Use demonstrations.

The dye pots are all Natural Plant material dyes. Some of the dyes are quite toxic to those with breathing problems, but we only use the most non toxic mordants and plants we can and still come up with some gorgeous yarns.

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