Alpacas draw visitors
Alpaca lovers from around the state and surrounding states brought in more than 300 animals to compete in the halter show at the third annual Wisconsin Alpaca and Fiber Fest at the Washington County Fair Park near West Bend.
Organized by a committee led by President Don Payne of Oak Lawn Alpacas in Iron Ridge, the event also included a fleece show and competition; fiber arts activities and sales; vendors; and numerous seminars.
Sharon Loner, a Colorado alpaca enthusiast who is an AOA and internationally-certified judge for both fleece and halter, evaluated over 300 entries in the halter class during the weekend event.
Loner completed her international training through the International Alpaca Judging School in Peru. She is a graduate of North Dakota State University with a bachelor's degree in secondary education and textiles.
In the show ring, she made an effort to make sure every exhibitor, both experienced exhibitors and those new to showing alpaca, were comfortable and learned from their experience in the show ring.
The evaluation classes were for both Suri and Huacaya alpacas. The two types are classified according to their fiber type.
The more common Huacaya fleece is dense and crimped, giving the animal a teddy-bear look. The Suri fleece is very fine, long and curly, which makes the animal look as if it is sporting dreadlocks.
The weekend activities also included a fleece show. Raw fleeces weigh anywhere from 2 to 10 pounds.
They come in as many as 21 colors, including solid black, white, grey, brown, tan and variegated color combinations. Solid-color alpacas are preferred within the industry.
While an animal may appear to be light on the outside, when judges evaluate the fleece, they look at whether the color carries through all the way to the skin.
The spin-off competition helped breeders understand how their breeding decisions affect textile production.
In the fleece contest, the grand champion fleece was exhibited by Alpaca of Indian Hills Point in Illinois. It was also the Best Crimp Huacaya entry. The Best Hand Huacaya entry was shown by Rob Asia Alpaca Ranch in Manitowoc. Rob Asia also showed the Best Brightness Hiacaya fleece.
Hums of Faith, Oconto, had the best light fleece and the Best Luster Suri, Best Lock Suri, and the Best Prepared and overall champion fleece was shown by Riverview Ridge Alpacas of Eau Claire.
Wisper Meadows Alpacas at DePere had the Best High Point Suri. The Best High Point Huacaya was shown by Allice Rasmussen of Pickett. The Best Hand Suri was Hums of Faith, Oconto.
The fiber arts contest featured many aspects of fiber, such as knitting, crocheting, felting and more.
Vendors were also on hand with a variety of yarn, roving and other supplies needed for creating unique items.
Washington County 4-H spinning project members demonstrated their skills throughout the weekend.
A wide variety of topics were offered for the popular seminars that took part throughout the weekend, ranging from 'Alpacas 101' to more complex topics involving animal health, breeding, fleece processing and more.
Because alpacas are relatively small, weighing between 115 and 220 pounds, and are curious and generally unafraid of strangers, the event was very popular among children who came to the show just to enjoy these playful animals.
Alpacas are becoming popular among 4-Hers and FFA members who want to raise some sort of livestock but are unable to raise larger animals or animals that might be a little more difficult to handle.
Alpacas do well in pastures and do not require a great deal of protection from the weather as they do best in cooler weather.