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Pagosa Fiber Festival this weekend

The Pagosa Fiber Festival celebrates its 10th year this weekend in Town Park.

Wonder how it started? Dave Belt explains. (Dave and his family, longtime residents of Pagosa, raised alpacas here and, since 2003, live in Nova Scotia.)

“I remember the genesis of the festival:  I was sitting at a stop sign on South Pagosa Boulevard in late May 1999, trying to get across the highway to the other side (these were in the days before traffic lights came to Pagosa).  The traffic zipping through town on 160 was phenomenal.  And that is a problem, I thought to myself.  Here it is Memorial Day — the first major weekend of the summer — and the tourists are not getting off the highway to see our fair town.  We need to create something to ENTICE them to stop and spend some time in Pagosaland over the Memorial Day weekend.  ”Ah!”  I exclaimed, “let’s do what they do in Taos ... create a festival to celebrate fiber-bearing animals, the artisans, and the fiber arts ... right here in Pagosa!”

From a privately-funded event, the festival transitioned to a non-profit with a Board of Directors and a mission. With respect to the public, the aim of the Pagosa Fiber Festival is to educate everyone about the wide variety of fiber animals — alpacas, angora and cashmere goats, angora rabbits, llamas, Scottish Highlander Cattle, sheep and yak — and the wonderful products that are made from their fibers. The educational value of all this effort and activity is clear.

In addition, the organization’s website ( www.pagosafiberfestival.org ) states that the festival is a celebration of:

• the efforts of a growing cottage industry involved in fiber-related businesses- spinning, weaving, knitting, felting, crochet; and

• the efforts to preserve a rural lifestyle and landscape by providing the small livestock raisers a venue to promote their product.

.While the Pagosa Fiber Festival has a ways to go to be like Taos, still the 2009 attendance figure, 1,700, was a 29-percent increase over 2008.

A unique feature of the event is that it offers something of interest to almost everyone. Families love the livestock tent with its exotic alpacas, llamas and Navajo Churro sheep, the tiny Shetland sheep, curly angora kid goats and fuzzy angora rabbits. Kids have hands on fun creating with fiber.

Fiber artists are happy to have another showcase for their outstanding handmade garments and home accessories. Aspiring artists have the opportunity to take workshops in such subjects as spinning, weaving, knitting, natural dyes, felting, Navajo weaving, etc. during the Thursday and Friday half day and full day workshops.

Navajo Rug enthusiasts can participate in an auction with the hope of taking home one of the prized rugs created by Navajo weavers, perhaps, even meet the artist. Everyone, but especially women, enjoys the offerings of the many vendors who display handmade garments of fine animal fiber. And then, of course, there is yarn, roving, batting of every description and color to satisfy every desire to create ones own garment or home accessory.

Following is a complete schedule of festival events.

Saturday, May 29.

Festival hours: 9 a.m.-5 p.m.

Ongoing:

• Demonstrations of all kinds at the various vendor booths — carding, spinning, weaving, felting, knitting, etc.

• Drawings on the hour at the Festival Booth. Tickets for the drawings available for a donation. Proceeds used for a scholarship for fiber arts classes.

• Interested in fiber producing livestock? Find several knowledgeable folks in the Livestock Tent, including Jim Burbach and Jan and Rich Fiorucci each with their own alpacas, Brenda Wanket and her Scottish Highlander Cattle and Ellen Sibelius and her angora goat.

• Sonny Gustamontes shears sheep and angora goats on the raised platform outside on the hour.

Morning :

9-10 a.m. — Entries accepted for fiber arts competitions.

9 a.m. — Crockpot Dyeing Demo, Nancy Wilson.

10 a.m. — Introduction to Knitting with Beads, Judy Ditmore.

10 a.m. — Navajo rugs on display, Ross Aragon Community Center.

10:30 a.m. — Judging of fiber arts begins.

11 a.m. — Corking, Linda Smith.

Noon — Registration for auction begins, community center.

Afternoon:

1 p.m. — Felted Soap and Cat Toy, Kari User.

2 p.m. — Introduction to Knitting with Beads, Judy Ditmore.

2 p.m. — Sorting/Skirting a Fleece, Ruth Baldwin.

3 p.m — Knitting with Roving – Pam Dyer.

3:30 p.m. — Winners announced, fiber arts competition.

4 p.m. — Reception for suction, community center.

5 p.m. — Navajo Rug Auction, community center.

Sunday, May 30

Festival hours: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Ongoing: Same as Saturday.

Morning:

9 a.m. — Crockpot Dyeing Demo, Nancy Wilson.

10 a.m. — Introduction to Knitting with Beads, Judy Ditmore.

Afternoon:

1 p.m. — Felted Soap and Cat Toy, Kari User.

2 p.m. — Introduction to knitting with Beads, Judy Ditmore.

2 p.m. — Preparing your Yarn for Judging, Nancy Wilson.

3 p.m. — Beginning Needle Felting, Kimberly Perkins.

For more information see www.pagosafiberfestival.org or call Jane McKain at 264-4458.