Spring is a great time of year for just about everyone. The brown grass is turning green, the birds are chirping when you wake up and if you are lucky enough to live in the country, you might even hear the peepers at dusk. On an alpaca farm, it’s an amazingly busy time of year. Months before it’s time, we start thinking about shearing the animals. The more animals you have, the longer it takes and when you do it like us (by ourselves) it takes even longer.
But before the shearing, come the shows. Alpacas are shown in several events. The main event is the Halter Class. In halter, the animal is judged on both conformation and fleece. There are also Showmanship classes which judge the handler and how well they show their animal. For fun, there is an Obstacle Course which shows the willingness of the animal to do things that maybe alpacas don’t normally do like walk up steps, go over a teeter totter or pass through a hula-hoop. If you don’t want to take your animal to the show, you can show the fleece that was shorn the previous year. The fleece is carefully sorted so that only the best or blanket remains. It is judged on it’s uniformity, fineness, crimp & luster or sheen.
This weekend we are gearing up for our first show of the season, The VA Classic in Charlottesville, VA. This is a fun show, not only are there alpacas, but also llamas. It’s interesting to see how the cousins to the alpacas are shown, the interesting costumes they wear and how they can pull a cart.
Virginia is only the first of the spring shows. Next comes the grand-daddy of all alpaca shows, MAPACA. In it’s 15th year, MAPACA is the country’s largest alpaca show and it’s held in our back yard! The PA Farm Show Complex makes an excellent show site for over 1,000 alpacas and over 200 farms.
I’m excited and honored to have been asked to judge the Fiber Arts and Skein Competition this year. In a Fiber Arts competition, artisans submit handmade items which can be knit, crocheted, woven or felted. Each is judged with like items and each grouping is broken down based on the experience the artisan has. There is also a Skein Competition in which hand spinners submit their own hand-spun skeins of yarn. Mills are also able to submit the finest examples of their work as well.
Finishing up the Spring Show Season (at least for us) is the PAOBA show in York PA at the Toyota Center. It’s a thrill to be involved in such a great show. I’ve served on the show committee for the past several years and it’s wonderful to be able to help host the event in my own home town. We also have the halter, showmanship and obstacle courses as well as fiber arts and fleece. We have also had a Fleece to Shawl exposition in which 2 or more teams create a shawl from raw fleece in an afternoon. The shawls are then auctioned off for hundreds if not thousands of dollars and the funds are used for charitable contributions.
So the trailer is packed, the alpacas are as clean as they can be with all the rain we’ve been having and we are ready to go.
Wish us luck!