Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival

Howard County Fairgrounds
2210 Fairground Road
West Friendship, MD

Held on the first full weekend in May each year

Huge crowds always turn out the first full week-end of May to explore the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival which is held at the Howard County Fairgrounds in West Friendship, Maryland. For a number of years Old Line Soays has been an exhibitor. Among other things this venue provides the public with a unique opportunity to see British registered Soay sheep in person as ours is the only farm in the USA to exhibit them.

Each breed at the festival is given two 4’ x 8’ stalls, one of which must be used to house sheep, the other to set-up a display. We try to make our limited space as informative as we can with photos of the sheep in their native habitat, handouts about the breed and its uses, samples of raw wool and pieces woven from Soay yarn. While we do not sell sheep at the show, arrangements can be made to visit our farm to see our animals some of which are for sale. 

By the end of the weekend we have given out boxes of leaflets and talked until we are hoarse to people who are definitely fascinated by these little creatures and their history. We also sell raw wool by the bag which is always a big hit with handspinners, many of whom have heard of British Soay but never seen one. Many are eager to do their part to support our efforts to preserve this breed through the purchase of our wool. We are always amazed by how many Britons stop by to either see the sheep of their homeland for the first time or to share stories about their experiences with them in the UK.

The MSWS utilizes the entire fairgrounds and has everything from breed and show classes, to herding and shearing demonstrations and seven buildings plus outside grounds full of vendors. People come from across the United States to exhibit and visit this big event. Many wait all year to buy wool and yarn. It is truly a special experience.

We hope to see you there.

In 2007 we were thrilled to be awarded the champion and grand champion ribbons for the entire show for our display.

Soay Cross Country Trip – Bringing Our Flock Home

In the fall of 2005 a group of six British Soay Sheep (two rams and four ewes) traveled 2300 miles across the US to join the oldest RBST registered flock in the Northeast. They literally went from one coast to the other; a bit ironic since their parents had made the same trip in the opposite direction just five years earlier when they were imported from Canada. The journey from Oregon to Maryland opened yet another chapter in the effort to get registered RBST Soay broadly disbursed around the country. Each animal was chosen for the genetics and the phenotypic characteristics that it carried. The main objective of the British Soay conservation project in which we are participating is to keep future generations of this historic relic as genetically diverse as possible and pheontypically representative of the wild flocks as they exist on St. Kilda.

Our six sheep traveled with animals from other farms in a trailer specifically designed to carry small livestock, primarily sheep and goats. Ron Keener’s transportation business takes him on long trips (six to eight weeks) around the country 3 or 4 times a year. Each one is carefully planned with door-to-door pickup and deliveries, the welfare of the animals always being uppermost in Ron’s mind. As part of his service, daily progress can be followed on a Yahoo Groups list he set up solely for this purpose. People can follow his travels in real time and have some idea when he will arrive at their farm. This also gives clients a constantly updated status report of the condition of their livestock on the trailer. Over the years Ron has transported llamas, dogs, miniature cattle even guinea pigs in addition to his normal fare of goats and sheep. The care he provides was evident when our sheep arrived in excellent condition despite twenty-one days on the road. During the fall of 2008 six more lambs made the same journey from Oregon to Old Line Soays bringing new genetics to our flock from the west coast including those recently introduced from the UK through artificial insemination.

They have now all settled in nicely at the farm in Maryland and lambs in the spring will begin the next chapter in the east coast’s efforts to help preserve British Soay in the United States.