It was hard to tell who was more excited as Indian Trail resident Cynthia Wilson held on to the halter of her Huacaya alpaca she calls Alice. Alpacas are similar to a llama, just smaller with a higher quality fiber to their fleece.
The halter show is similar to the judging of a dog show. Each contestant is led in by a halter, similar to a leash, walked by the judges and then lined in a row. Judges check their teeth, composition and body form – with a hands-on inspection that includes pulling a small tuft of fleece to inspect – as each stands with their handlers.
It was only their second year competing and both were trying to take it all in. Wilson was talking with the other handlers, gaining tips and comparing notes as Alice, whose registered name is Wonderful Wallace, checked out the males and younger alpacas that passed by.
Whenever a baby alpaca would come near Alice would kiss and nuzzle it with her face. “She wants to be a mama,” said Wilson noting that at 21 months old, she was coming into the age for breeding.
The two were about to enter the ring during the halter show judging portion of the Carolina Alpaca Celebration at the Cabarrus Arena and Events Center in Concord on Feb. 22. The second show, or competition, would judge the shorn fleece of the animal.
To some the shows were about bloodlines, pedigrees and titles. Others came for the fellowship, but to many it was all about the fleece. The fleece from the alpaca is soft and easy to work with.
More than 500 alpacas from around the United States came to compete for ribbons and titles during the two-day show. In addition to the competition there were vendors selling supplies as well as spinners making items from the fleece of the alpacas.
There are two types of alpacas. The more common Huacaya (pronounced wah-KI-ya), some refer to as teddy bear because of the fluffy fleece, and the Suri, with fleece resembling dreadlocks. About 15 percent of the alpaca population are Suri.
For judging, the animals are separated into sub categories by sex, age and color with ribbons for the first six places in each category. A first place wins a spot in the best of color competition where they could win a reserve color champion or color champion title.
Wilson had loved alpacas since she was a child but didn’t own any until about two years ago when her husband Tom Wilson decided to surprise her for her 50th birthday. He drove her to a farm and walked her up to two alpacas that had party ribbons in their halters.
Tom presented her with a shawl made from their fleece and said, “Here are some alpacas to give you something to do, now that the kids are grown and gone.” Healing Hearts Alpacas was born and they now have eight alpacas, two of which were born on their farm.
“They are just like children, they get excited and they can get mad,” said Wilson as she hugged Alice. Wilson believes that they are a great stress release because of their affectionate nature. Alice was kissing and nuzzling Wilson as they waited their turn.
In the end Alice did not place in the halter show, but her white, fluffy fleece earned a first place ribbon and a Reserve Color Champion title in the shorn fleece show.
Marty Price is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Marty? Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The annual event was presented by the Carolina Alpaca Breeders and Owners. For information on the group, visit http://carolinaalpacafarms.org.