While many fiber festivals around Oregon were canceled due to COVID-19, organizers from the Prairie City Fiber Fest worked arduously to maintain a COVID-19-compliant event while giving people a chance to learn, talk, sell and work with fiber.
Ginger Shive, the festival director, said vendors were pleased with the festival this year and that several of them already signed up for next year.
“What is really cool is a lot of the vendors I was visiting with last night said, ‘Oh my gosh, you guys are really throwing the gauntlet down this year to all the other festivals,” Shive said.
Vendors told Shive that a combination of the “EWENIQUE” social hour and the organization of the event made the experience great and safe at the same time.
Shive added that Prairie City Mayor Jim Hamsher went to the festival on July 25 by surprise and counted the number of people at the park across from city hall and verified that the event was compliant.
“It was a surprise when he came to inspect, but I am happy we were compliant,” Shive said.
The event provided a chance to see people spin fiber, create items such as rugs, slippers and blankets from fiber at workshops and buy or sell various types of fiber at different stages.
Shive said people from around Oregon and neighboring states came to be a part of the event.
Elizabeth Kulick from Salem said the event was awesome and that everybody was friendly.
The highlight for Kulick was the workshops and learning about fiber and felting, which focuses on compressing loose fibers to create an item.
“I’m kind of new to felting, so it was nice to get tips and more,” Kulick said.
Kulick said she had the chance to felt her own slippers at one of the workshops, which was a great experience.
Nancy Harris, a new board member for the festival, said felting was something that she wanted to do for a while and the fiber fest gave her the chance to felt with assistance from LeBrie Rich, the instructor for the felting workshop.
Rich, who traveled to the festival from Portland, said the amount of knowledge present at the event was amazing.
“There’s so much knowledge here, and I think that’s something about the fiber festival here that’s amazing,” Rich said. “The people who come here spin, dye, weave, own goats, own sheep and do fiber arts. The collective knowledge here is amazing, and that’s why I like coming here.”
Dianne Wright, a vendor from Weiser, Idaho, has alpacas with her husband. They raise their alpacas, shear them, die the fiber and blend them with different wools.
She said the organizers and people at the event have been wonderful. She was glad the festival came to fruition since many other events had to cancel due to COVID-19.
“We kept waiting for it to cancel like everything else,” she said. “But we’re glad we’re having it, and we’ve all been compliant. That’s the big thing. You can’t stop living because of this (COVID-19). Take the precautions you need and enjoy life.”
She added that the organizers did well in protecting participants at the festival and the community by providing masks and having multiple stations where hand sanitizer was readily available.
Proceeds from this year’s event will go toward Grant County 4-H and FFA programs.