It's lamb season, and they're celebrating in Monroe County, Illinois. Take a short drive across the Jefferson Barracks Bridge this Saturday, April 10, to the Monroe County Fairgrounds in Waterloo to celebrate spring at the Monroe County Sheep Producers' annual Sheep and Craft Festival.
Admission to the festival is free, but $7.50 buys a ticket into the lamb lunch. From 11 a.m. till 2 p.m., members of the organization will serve a variety of dishes made from fresh local lamb, including grilled chops, bratwurst, burgers and barbecued leg of lamb, plus a variety of picnic side dishes.
If that's not enough lamb, many of the southern Illinois farmers will have frozen, vacuum-packed lamb for sale and special order, along with cooking demonstrations and samples.
Everything's processed locally, at Miller's Meat Processing in Red Bud and Schubert's Packing Company in Millstadt. Both will be at the festival, along with Schneider's Quality Meats of Waterloo.
The event's a great opportunity for St. Louis diners to experience local lamb, which is hard to find; grocery stores are stocked mostly with lamb imported from New Zealand.
Says Monroe County Sheep Producers president Richard Woodcock: "American lamb is a very good product but people don't know where to get it. Our lamb, because it's fed differently than New Zealand lamb, grows bigger and tastes different."
The festival offers a glimpse into the sheep-farming way of life, with herding-dog demonstrations, sheep shearing, wool production and crafts, an antique tractor show, sheep pellet bingo (!) and clogging.
Monroe County Sheep Producers 24th Annual Sheep and Craft Festival Saturday, April 10, 10 a.m - 2 p.m. Monroe County Fairgrounds 4177 Illinois Highway 156 Waterloo, Illinois
Free admission ($7.50 for lamb lunch)