Rookie Mistake

This guy, this awesome, well built, beautifully fleeced guy, should have been a champion.

Tommy Chong coulda been the best sheep in the show.

But no. Because I was so preoccupied with other things I took the wrong sheep into the ring. (Queue the sound of my head hitting the desk).

July 22nd & 23rd I attended the 2nd annual Mat-Su Valley Fiber Festival. I am also the chairperson of the event, backed by a great team of committee members, and we pulled off a really great event. The highlight, for me at least, was a livestock show based on FIBER. That’s right, no meat market here, just wool, wool, and more wool. Fleece and Fiber of every texture, color, and purpose from all over our great state.

We brought up some real-deal fiber judges from out of state, and started the show with a fleece and fiber show. The judges decided to work together and judge the fleece as a team. It was very educational to watch their process and hear all their comments. After the ribbons were awarded they took the time to answer questions from the producers, most of whom had never been to a real fiber festival or fleece show before. It was fascinating to hear all the reasons they placed one before the other, or decided not to score one at all.

Out of the 32 fleeces on the table 13 were from Tower Ranch. We won best white fleece (Princess) and took several blues, a few reds and we even had a couple that didn’t get scored which I later found out was because the judge deemed them poorly skirted and not well presented. Considering 98% of my time and attention was spent on organizing the festival I was satisfied with my mediocre showing.

Congratulations to Valerie Tompkins for Best Natural Fleece.

I was watching the judges when they reached into a bag of natural colored fleece from my ewe Latte. The tag read Romney because that is what I had been told she was when I bought her. The judge insisted it was not Romney and after I admitted that I didn’t actually know what she was (the gentleman had passed and his kids were selling the sheep without his records) he corrected me that the fleece felt more like Merino. I had heard the previous owner had Romney/Rambouillets so the judge said that must be it, he would believe she was Rambouillet (french merino) but she most definitely wasn’t Romney. I laughed and said, I stand corrected, apparently she’s a rambouillet 🙂 And that is how our whole day went. They taught, we learned, and a good time was had by all.

After the fleece show we moved on to live animals.

Saturday was the sheep events judged by Sam Wiford. We started with the rams, all 3 of my rams did well. I had to correct my entries as it appeared that my Cormo/Romney was actually a Cormo/Rambouillet. The judge was once again careful to teach us as we went. Most classes only had 2 or 3 sheep in them and we had been very honest admitting this was the first fiber festival with a fiber animal show we had ever had the opportunity to attend. He showed us each of our animals strengths and weaknesses, validating my choices to wether one lamb while leaving the other intact.

Tommy Chong won Best Ram

Next came the ewes, Princess did better than Duchess, and he said Felony Melanie is going to be great. I hadn’t had time to prepare the sheep so they were straight out of the pasture, I took off their coats and put them in the ring. I would have liked to have at least washed their faces or something but time didn’t allow, I’m still not sure how one prepares a wool sheep for the ring. Regardless we still had a great time and brought home some ribbons.

Spot won Best Ewe

Lee Hecimovich won best ewe and Becky Hammond from White Fireweed Farms won Best fleece overall. Congratulations to both for a job well done.

The biggest lesson I learned that day? Pay attention to what the judge is saying.

After Chong won the Best ram the judge made a comment that he was a full package. Great confirmation, size, and unbeatable wool. But his fleece didn’t even get scored on the fleece table, and Princess one best white fleece so when the ring steward called for best fleece sheep I grabbed Princess, because her fleece won on the table. Of the 4 sheep in the ring Princess didn’t place. As I was leaving the ring with Princess the judge told me I screwed up, that I should have taken Chong into the ring for Best Fleece Sheep. That’s when I remembered how he had complimented Chong when he awarded him Best Ram, said he was a full package deal, well built, good shape, nice fleece. “He’s everything you want a great ram to be.” (mental face palm) All I could do was shake my head and say rookie mistake. I didn’t think my choice through. He was kind when he pointed out I brought the wrong sheep to the ring and we both laughed about it.

Becky Hammond and Maddie won best fleece sheep

Sunday was the goat show with Carol Ronan. She too took the time to educate everyone inside and outside the ring. I was very impressed when she said for all the presenters to stay on the backside of the animals even if she moved to that side so the audience could see the animals. She answered audience questions over the rail as we displayed our animals and a great time was had by all.

Maximus the Pygora Buckling 

All three does in the Pygora class were mine but Miss Diva was the best of the bunch and the judge said I was very lucky to have such a fine doe. She showed why each was different than the others and complimented each on their strengths.


When the call came for the best of show and the ring steward said “Grab your best goat” I considered my previous day’s mistake. Since I got it wrong the previous day with the sheep I was determined not to make the same mistake. As I grabbed Diva back out of the pen the judges called from the ringside “You picked the right one this time”. We all laughed as I made my way back into the ring.

Diva getting her fleece inspected.

The judge was very gracious and explained that although Diva was an excellent Pygora she would always be less than an Angora


Our first fiber animal show was a great success.  It was a pleasure to share the ring with friends and I’m glad a good time was had by all.

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