(Posted July 7, 2017)
By Kristy Zurbrick, Madison Editor
In May, Judy Gallimore, head advisor for the Helping Hands Happy Hearts 4-H Club, took her club members to an alpaca farm south of Mount Sterling. It was shearing day. The trip made quite an impression.
Several members were smitten by the soft, long-necked creatures. So much so, they wanted a chance to show them at the fair. The result: For the first time ever, the Madison County Fair schedule includes an alpaca show.
The exhibition is set for 5 p.m. July 11 in the sheep arena. Six members of Gallimore’s club and one from the Fairfield Rascals Club are signed up to participate. They will compete for ribbons and an overall trophy.
“We hope the show draws a good crowd. If we get more kids interested, we’ll be able to make alpacas an official 4-H project next year,” Gallimore said.
Similar to llamas but smaller, alpacas are bred for their fiber, which is used to make knitted and woven items like sweaters, hats, gloves and socks. They are pack animals by nature and, as such, are not sold singly, Gallimore said. Lone alpacas do not thrive, so breeders sell them in sets of two or more.
The 4-Hers involved in this year’s fair show are leasing alpacas from the farm they visited, A&R Alpaca Farm owned by Aaron and Robin Ridenour.
A&R owns over 130 alpacas and boards several more. In addition to selling, boarding and leasing alpacas, the farm also sell yarn, clothing items, teddy bears, and other stuffed animals made from alpaca fiber. Each item is tagged with the name of the alpaca from which the fiber came.
The alpacas leased for the fair show are being kept at a site in Madison County where the 4-Hers visit them twice daily to feed and walk them. All of the alpacas are between 15 and 18 months old.
During fair week, the alpacas will be housed in the open horse barn directly across from the sheep arena. On the stalls, exhibitors will display posters detailing what they have learned about the animals.