26th Annual Sheepshearing Festival
Gore Estate, Watertown, MA
April 27, 2013
Late April - spring has sprung. You can smell it, the primordial cells in your DNA can sense it. Growing explosions of pale to brilliant green. You don’t know how much you've missed it, gone from nature's palette since early November. The pagan in you perks up. You sense renewal, a resurrection of nature after the bleakness of winter.
April is sheep shearing season. Renewal for them, too, being fleeced of their thick tangled lanolin rich winter coat in late spring when temperatures moderate and the shearing wont stress them out. Enter the 26th Annual Sheep Shearing Festival at the Gore Estate in Watertown, MA.
Put together blissful weather when we can shed our own winter coats plus a festival featuring sheep, chickens, horses, a lama, and Australian sheep dogs and you have a huge magnet that has drawn every family for miles around. What a collection. Strollers, babes in arms, toddlers, teenagers doing their best to keep some distance from their parents, and a raft of interested adults eager to get outside in the sunshine. This feels like Disneyland without the rides. There are kids everywhere.
The festival features a boatload of choices: abundant food, crafts fair (88 vendors), Colonial reenactments, live music and Australian sheep dog demonstrations. The main attraction is the sheep shearing demonstrations, a lure for kids of all ages. Kevin Ford, the only professional shearer using the old technique of shearing by hand, is putting on a show.
An arm’s length away from those standing next to the rope enclosure, we smell the wooly sheep and the moist hay-strewn pen in which they nervously wait their turn and occasionally bleat their bewilderment. What a collection: ewes, rams and young sheep – lambs.
If you listen carefully, you can hear Kevin Ford's old black shearing blades click away as he patiently shears a sheep's entire coat in one pass, sort of like peeling an apple with one continuous swirl around the sphere.
The Sheep Shearing Tent was a huge draw all day long. Note how pure white the inner wool is.
Kevin sharpens his shears then...time to find another customer to shear.
All ages are fascinated by this old fashioned demonstration by an artisan of rare skill.
PHOTO AND VIDEO by Paul A. Tamburello, Jr. MORE photos of the day to follow tomorrow...