Since 1998, the Alpaca Association of Western Washington (AAWW) has kicked off their show season with Alpacapalooza, which for the third consecutive year, will take place at the Clark County Event Center. The event, held April 6-7, is celebrated as “Two days of Peace, Love and Livestock,” and highlights the growing alpaca population and industry in the Pacific Northwest.
AAWW President Jeff Williamson, who also owns Liberty Alpacas in Maple Valley, said this year’s event may have less vendors and exhibitors than previous years because of the economy, but will still be a fun weekend for all.
“I’ve been involved since 2007 and we’ve seen it grow quite a bit, but the economy affected everybody, so even though we’ve had about 800 alpacas be there at our peak, we’re expecting at least 500 to be on display, since it’s the start of show season.”
In the Northwest, alpaca breeders make their show rounds in April and May to take advantage of the coats their alpacas grow over the winter months. By late May or early June, the alpacas are shorn to make the summers more tolerable for the animals, although Williamson said the climate in Washington allows them to thrive year-round.
“It’s great because we don’t have extreme heat or cold during the year, so the alpacas can enjoy the summer months without their coats, but when the rain comes in the fall, they’ve already begun growing new ones which keep them warm all through the winter,” Williamson said.
Because of that, the Pacific Northwest is one of the first regions in the country to be established by alpaca breeders in the mid-1980’s and is now second only to the Ohio River Valley as the most popular locale in the country.
Often mistaken for the larger more common llama, alpacas are a smaller domesticated South American species and are part of a biological family called camelids, making them a relative of both llamas and camels.
There are two types of alpacas, Suri, whose fleece grows in twisted ropes like dreadlocks, and Huacaya. Being herd animals, alpacas are social and can be more tolerant of humans than llamas, but like their relatives, alpacas do not like being grabbed and when threatened, will spit. However, alpacas do possess a demeanor that allows them to serve as both therapy animals and be kept as pets in many parts of the world, including the United States.
Common llamas serve as beasts of burden and also have their fleece, which is similar to wool, harvested for clothing, it is primarily used in the manufacturing of rugs, wall hangings and rope. Alpaca fleece, however, is lustrous and silky but unlike sheep wool, it’s warmer and hypoallergenic. Because of that, alpacas have been bred entirely for fleece production, which has been used to make everything from blankets to sweaters, hats, gloves, scarves, socks, bedding and more.
Alpaca fiber is also naturally water-repellant and difficult to ignite by fire, making it a favorite of outdoorsmen and women, who can use it anywhere from rivers to mountains, to firefighters and soldiers.
In addition to the judging, Alpacapalooza will also feature a halter show, fiber arts judging and a photo contest, as well as presentations, a silent auction and a “happy hour” social and Herdsire Luau Auction.
Prior to being held at the Clark County Event Center, the event was staged in Puyallup, but the current site offers a bigger venue with indoor facilities, climate control, and other amenities which makes it perfect for the alpacas and their handlers.
“We’ve been very happy with our move to Clark County and it’s given us a chance to also welcome more people from outside the area to come take part,” Williamson said.
Admission is free for both days, but the fairgrounds will charge $6 for parking. More information can be found at www.alpacawa.org. The Clark County Event Center is located 17402 NE Delfel Rd., in Ridgefield.
Alpacapalooza 2013 Schedule
Sat., April 6
8 a.m. - Mandatory Exhibitor Meeting / Fleece Judging begins
8:30 a.m. - Halter Show begins / Silent Auction items available for bidding
5 p.m. - Show closes for Day
5 p.m. - Silent Auction closes
5 p.m. - Happy Hour Social & Herdsire Luau Auction in Showring
Sun., April 7
8 a.m. - Halter Show continues
Noon - Ask the Vet with Dr. Jacqueline Waltner
10 a.m. - Results of fiber arts judging on display and results of photo contest on display
2 p.m. - Estimate: Fleece awards in halter ring
3 p.m. - Pick up fleeces and Spin-Off entries
5 p.m. - Estimate – Halter Show closes