Today our destination was Bendigo, Victoria, about a 2 hour drive northwest of Melbourne, for the Australian Sheep and Wool Show. I have been looking forward to this since shortly after we arrived here and I learned about it from a local shepherd. We put lots of layers in the car because the forecast was for cool rainy weather and it rained most of the way there.
Our first stop in Bendigo was at the Bendigo Woollen Mill, a stop the ladies in my knitting group said was a must see. This mill (with Woollen spelled with two l’s) is the largest producer of hand-knitting yarns in Australia, producing 80-100 tons of yarn a year, using wool from Aussie sheep! I was encouraged when I pulled into the muddy parking lot and saw lots of cars and a tour bus! The small store attached to the mill was packed with knitters oohing and aahing over the luscious colors of yarns. I had done some research ahead of time and was interested in getting a couple of their knitting patterns and possibly some yarn to make one of those patterns. After looking in the 2 rooms of the store and touching lots of yarn, I made my selections. While I was wandering around Jim found a map to the Sheep and Wool Show-lots of people must ask how to get from the mill to the show!
It had stopped raining by the time we got to the mill and when we arrived at the Sheep Show the sun was making an appearance! We paid our entry fee ($20 each!) and checked a map to get a feel for the layout of the show. We turned right and just started going in each building as we came to it. The first few buildings had vendors selling yarn, hand-knit garments, fiber and knitting accessories. There was a building that housed all the entries in the wool competitions and there were many lovely projects that had been knit, crocheted, sewn, felted and woven. There was another large pavilion that had vendors but also a runway where there had been a wool fashion show earlier in the day.
We saw a huge new building that housed all the different breeds of sheep. What fun to walk through all the pens and see the differences in sheep! We spent a good deal of time touching all the fleeces that had been entered in the fleece competition and by then time we finished that our hands were very soft from all the lanolin in the fleeces.
The main outdoor arena hosted the sheep dog competition and that is always interesting to watch. Those dogs are amazing!
For lunch we stopped for lamb burgers which were delicious. We sat and ate them in a building that was hosting Bendigo’s Festival of Lamb. The restaurants in the town of Bendigo were featuring lamb dishes this whole week and throughout this show various chefs from these restaurants were demonstrating how to make their lamb dishes. We ate our burgers while one chef was showing how to make a pistachio-crusted lamb rump with a wine reduction sauce. It sounded delicious!
It started to rain as we were thinking about leaving, but we decided to stop into the sheep shearing building and see if anything was happening. And we were right on time to watch four shearers see who was fastest. Each guy (they were all men, didn’t see any women shearers) had to shear 3 sheep and the winner did it in just under 10 minutes. Once a sheep was completely sheared, a helper would gather up the fleece and then throw it up in the air so it landed in one large piece on a large table so it could be picked over and then rolled up to be processed. It was all fun to watch. The announcer said that good shearers would shear about 150 sheep in a day!
So we had a good trip to the Australian Sheep and Wool Show. They advertise that this event is the “largest in the world of its kind,” whatever that means. It certainly wasn’t as big as the New York or Maryland shows and not nearly as crowded with people, but it still was a big deal and one we really enjoyed.
Now, in response to requests, Jim took a photo of the Big French Fry as we drove under it this morning. Here it is-I call it An Accident Waiting to Happen!!
Tomorrow’s plan is to take a road trip around Port Phillip Bay. Stay tuned. . .