THOMPSON — Alpacas arrived at the Winnebago County Fair for the first time in the event’s history Thursday.
Hannah, Jacob and Alyssa Buffington of the Forest Everreadies 4-H Club brought their four-legged furry friends Sergio, Halle and Cocoa to the fair to participate in the inaugural alpaca show.
“We are really excited and nervous at the same time,” said Alyssa.
The presenters were asked to walk their alpacas around and display them for the judge. Entrants were critiqued on showmanship and the quality of the fur.
The judge selected Hannah Buffington’s alpaca, Sergio, as the intermediate winner of the show. Alyssa’s alpaca, Halle, was the winner in the junior category. And Jacob’s alpaca, Cocoa, was the second place finisher in the junior category.
It was the Buffingtons first alpaca show and all received blue ribbons.
The Buffingtons were unsure who was going to get the nod from the judge before the show.
“Cocoa is the most trained, Halle is the old, wise one and Sergio is the follower,” Alyssa said.
With such a unique animal at the fair for the first time, the Buffingtons wanted to educate curious fairgoers. They made poster boards with facts and answered questions about the animal before and after the alpaca show.
“Everyone who stops by has questions,” Hannah said. “They are a lot like llamas only llamas are bigger, more aggressive and spit more.”
The Buffingtons tout alpacas as being gentler, more pleasant and safe to be around.
The alpacas shown at the fair by the Buffingtons varied from ages 1 to 6 years old.
They eat hay, grass and pellets and can weigh more than 120 pounds.
“In the winter they can eat up to 10 pounds of hay a day,” Hannah said.
Once a year, alpacas’ fur needs to be shorn. The Buffington’s alpacas produce enough fur to fill a five-pound garbage bag.
“The fur is really soft,” Jacob Buffington said. “It is not scratchy like sheep wool.”
Alpaca fur produces a soft fleece and is used to make everything from teddy bears to clothing.
Teeth need to be grinded and toes must be clipped yearly but the Buffingtons say the hard work is worth the novelty of owning alpacas.
“Not many people can say they have alpacas,” Hannah said. “I can come to school and tell my friends, ‘I walked an alpaca today.’”
Sam Jefson is a reporter for the Forest City Summit and Britt News Tribune, both Lee Enterprises newspapers.