Wool is walk & wear in fair contest
When Kelly Gillis, 11, of Greensburg was asked how she felt as she waited to compete in the Junior Leadline Sheep and Wool contest at the Westmoreland Fair, she had a very simple answer for the crowd. “Hot,” Gillis said.
That was understandable. The young girl was dressed in her great-grandfather Charles Silvis' floor-length wool military coat — her outfit for the contest, which required contestants to wear costumes or outerwear at least in part made of wool.
Gillis, a first-time competitor in the show, said she prepared her sheep for the big night.
“I fixed up my sheep,” Gillis said of “Baby.” “I cleaned out her hooves and cleaned out her nose, then I got my great-grandfather's coat, so I am all ready.”
The contest is one of the more fun events at the fair, organizers noted, giving 4-H members the opportunity to compete in a much less serious setting.
“This is a long week for these kids and by the time this competition rolls around, many of them are tired,” wool superintendent Wanda Smail said.
The competition is a fun blending of showmanship, with handlers showing their sheep while wearing something made from wool.
“They can wear entire outfits or costumes,” Smail said. “They can wear a lot or a little. It's up to them.”
Smail said the handlers are judged on how much they are wearing and if they made it or where it came from.
“We ask them if they made what they have on or if someone else made it for them or if they just bought it,” Smail said. “Their answers and where their items come from are all a part of how they are scored.”
The handlers were introduced with a short biography.
Smail said the numbers were down this year for the competition, but felt that other events occurring at the same time could have played a part.
The competition is divided into three age groups: pee-wee, junior and senior, and is open to all 4-H members.
“This is a really fun event for the pee-wees, because there aren't too many other events that they can actually compete in here,” Smail said, adding that unfortunately, there were no pee-wees this year.
The event was started many years ago by the Sheep and Wool Association of Westmoreland County, but that group is no longer in existence.
“We no longer have that association in the county, so we took it over,” Smail said of the volunteers and superintendents who run the show. “It's just a fun thing for these kids to do and it's always a surprise to see what they come up with.”
Marilyn Forbes is a contributing writer.