Today was very very different than the trip to MD S&W. MD was immensely crowded, we had a minivan full of people that we hauled up there, and it was HOT. We went up to the festival today with just Daven and myself, and due to the weather being around 44F and drizzly, there was not so much with the crowds.
The first thing I have to say is that this is an amazing location. Estes Park is so very beautiful. The drive was about 1.5 hours from our house, but the lion's share was through some amazing rugged mountains. Estes Park is about 2000 feet higher than our house, so there was a little *gasp gasp* when we first got out of the car and started walking around, but we adapted pretty quickly.
With the weather as it was, we were wearing our oil skin dusters and cowboy hats, along with combat boots and bdus, as we knew it would be rainy and horrid. We got a lot of odd looks, but we got even more "You guys are the only ones who are actually dressed appropriately" comments from folks. Yes, I admit to snickering at the drenched girls in shorts and flip flops. Weather.com, people. Use it.
The festival is much much smaller than MD S&W. Whereas MD has an air of "family fun fair that happens to have a billion sheep", this was more "so you want to show your critters; we can do that for you." The vendors would fit into about 1.5-2 of the smaller vendor buildings at MD, but the quality of products was excellent. Creatively Dyed was there, as was my favourite sheep artist (shut up, I'm allowed to have a favourite sheep artist), but just due to the fact that it is kinda out in BFE, there was a much smaller group of people vending and displaying.
There was a much better variety of critters though! The organization is that each critter type got its own barn/tent. There were adorable yaks, including a baby that made the cutest noises ever. I got to pet a Paco Vicuna fleece, which was stupidly soft (I got the contact information for the breeder; she wasn't allowed to sell her fleeces at the market for some odd reason). There were actually as many goats as sheep at this festival, which is a contrast from MD. But the main critter types there were definitely alpacas, and even more so, llamas. They had llamas comin' outta their ears! Rather than the one or two alpaca farms, there was an entire tent of breeders, so you could wander around and eyeball a bunch of different livestock.
After I purchased a light grey alpaca fleece (surprise, surprise), we ended up over talking to a couple that have been raising alpacas for 12 years. They give seminars on raising alpacas, and initially invited us to join one of their classes. We talked a while longer, I gave them a general rundown of what my plan was, and they then modified their invitation to "come and have a beer with us on our farm". We'll probably be taking them up on that offer the last week of June. They're down in Loveland, about 45 minutes south, but they're familiar with our area. I was stupidly proud of myself for actually talking to some alpaca people, as this was on my list of things I must do at this festival. I get weird and shy about talking to folks on occasion, so it was nice that they were friendly and had really quirky senses of humour that we clicked well with. :)
I did manage to pick up a couple of ounces of angora bunny fluff, as well as some cards for breeders in the area of various types of bunnies. Again, I must find out if I can *spin* the stuff before I'm all crazygonuts and get a bunny, even if they are adorable and fluffy and...yeah.
Another triumph was getting the contact info for the bison ranch just north of us on the CO/WY border. One of the vendor's sister owns that ranch, and hooked us up with a card. Yay! Tasty meats for our freezer!
Unlike the feeling of being rushed and having to tear ass around MD, this was a very relaxed place. We ended up only spending about 3 hours there, and saw pretty much everything we wanted to see.
The drive down wasn't quite as much fun for me, as we were pointed downwards and I was definitely having some control issues with not driving. The last 5 minutes in the mountains was very close in, which triggered a bit of claustrophobia, but I lived through it. Apparently it is just a craps shoot for what the weather will be like. The vendors we talked to said that it can vary between snow and running around in shorts and tank tops. Variety pack weather!
Estes Park is absolutely going on the list of places to bring visitors, and I know I'll want to come back to the Wool Market next year. Hopefully by then I'll have some critters of my own!