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Fiber Festival introduces public to a lesser-known side of ag

ALLEGAN, MI -- When many people think of agriculture, the first products that come to mind are relating to what a person eats or drinks. During the Michigan Fiber Festival (MFF) in Allegan, MI, the main focus was on another form of producing; many of the items offered for sale would be appreciated for what a person would wear or use in their homes and was grown on a farm.

On August 19 to 21, the Allegan County Fairgrounds was filled with a fiber lover’s dream of a shopping trip. Three barns, several arenas, and a number of outdoor vendors sold items for a variety of needlework and arts. Booths were decorated with raw fleeces, rovings, skeins of yarn, tools for a myriad of crafts, books, magazines, patterns, and finished items made of wool and other natural fibers. The hand arts represented were knitting, spinning, crocheting, rug hooking, basketry, felting, tatting, and weaving.

In addition, MFF offered a myriad of classes throughout the week. The options included half- and whole day workshops for interests of all kinds. The teachers came from all over the United States to share their expertise in various aspects of knitting, spinning, and other needle arts. The participants could learn to spin with a drop spindle, prepare a fleece, basket making, blending fibers, and learn how to knit in the Continental style along with several other topics.

During the weekend when the crowds are the biggest, more activities are available for the attendees to view and appreciate. Demonstrations are stationed across the fairgrounds and have included antique sock knitting machines in action, a sheep herding, and felting a braid of roving into a mat. A special area was reserved for the children where they could try different crafts and take home a project of their own making.

Competitions abound during the weekend as livestock and fiber products were awarded ribbons and prizes. Sheep, pygora and angora goats, and angora rabbits all competed while alpacas were on display. Fleece contests for the species were held as well as for skeins and finished garments.

The festival was not without its share of unusual events with an obstacle course for all fiber animals held on Sunday, a costume class for the sheep, an old tractor display, and musical entertainment during lunch times on the weekend.

It is very hard to see and enjoy everything that MFF has to offer so be warned if you plan to attend the 2017 festival on August 16 through 20. You may want to make a weekend of it and bring the family along for an inspiring educational experience.

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