This weekend the National Alpaca Show is in Denver....how crazy is it that it's taking place while we're here. It's taking place at the National Western Complex just a little ways from us so we decided to go and check it out. We arrived this morning so we could take in all of the educational sessions that ran back to back all day. We learned all sorts of stuff...everything from how to pick a herd sire to the ailments and medical conditions an alpaca can suffer from. Alpacas were being shown, by a halter, all day long in the ring. There were several competitions going on simultaneously. We watched this one and I picked the second one from the left to be the winner. Ding ding ding....I won ! I used the same skills that we had used as kids judging cattle, when my brothers were in FFA and showed cattle in various shows, and applied the same uniformity rules, etc. It was probably more sheer luck but if today's gonna be my lucky day, let that luck be applied to having the winning powerball ticket. Ha !
In the vendor area, there were so many beautiful items...all made with alpaca fiber. Absolutely gorgeous things...
There was a photo competition, skein and spinning competition, silent auction and alpaca artwork. Here's some info on alpacas, from the Alpaca Owner's website:
There are two types of Alpacas, Huacaya (pronounced wah-KI'-ya) and Suri (pronounced Surrey). Huacaya alpacas represent approximately 80 percent of the aggregate US alpaca herd while suri alpacas represent the remainder. Suri alapcas have long lustrous locks of fiber or fleece that grow in "dreadlocks" giving the suri alpaca a unique appearance. Huacaya alpacas have long crimpy fiber that stands up from their skin that makes them look like cotton balls or teddy bears. Both suri and huacaya have the same properties of warmth, softness and strength which makes it a luxury textile. Alpacas come in a variety of natural colors from white, to ivory, all colors of brown, silver-grey, rose-grey and black.
I was surprised how may Suri alpacas were at the show (I don't know why I was so surprised but since they represent a much smaller percentage I thought there would only be a few there). A lady we spoke with, at her own booth, said that when someone knits with Huacaya fiber the product will have that fluff and curl to it, like the crimp that is in the fiber whereas a product made with Suri fiber will drape and lay flat. Many high end men's suits are made with Suri fiber. We liked the look of the Huacaya alpacas....they look like big fluff balls with eyes.
There also were men there shearing the alpacas. It seemed that once the owners of the alpacas finished showing them, in their respective categories, that they got them sheared. I know at White Violet Center, where I'll be going this fall, they sheared the whole herd about a week ago since the weather is starting to warm up. Here's the before and after on one alpaca we watched. Talk about shedding some pounds ! They look really naked when they get done with them. Some of the ones laying in their pens, would lay down right in front of a fan blowing full blast on them. Linda and I were freezing in there but with that big of a fur coat on them, they must get really warm. It's such a short process to get them sheared.
I would say maybe 5 minutes in total. They walk them over to the mat, put their front and back feet inside loops on the ends of ropes and then lay them on their side while the pulleys extend their legs out to hold them still. Then the shearer goes to town, pulling the fiber on the main part of their body in one full blanket. It's really something to watch. This alpaca just laid there calmly. The little one that had been sheared before this one, was squealing because it was stressed. Sometimes they will hum or huff if they are stressed. Many times, on the farm, when the shearing takes place they will also trim their feet and teeth and give them their vaccinations. We didn't see any of that happen with these animals. The show concludes tomorrow. There are a couple more sessions tomorrow but I don't think we'll be going back. We'll see what tomorrow morning brings. It was a lot of fun and we learned a lot about the animals and what goes into their care. Next March 2014 the national show will take place back home in Hershey, PA....how cool is that. All in all it was a great day....and no, I didn't win powerball. I guess my luck ran out with that one competition we watched. Drat !