Springfield, Illinois Gearing Up for Railsplitter Show

More than 180 warm, fuzzy sweaters on the hoof will be on display at the state fairgrounds this weekend for the Illinois Alpaca Owners and Breeders Association’s Railsplitter show.

A total of 42 alpaca farms have registered for the event, which includes judging, seminars, vendors and more. It is open to the public both Saturday and Sunday at the Exposition Building.

And the animals don’t actually have hooves — or horns, claws or incisors.

Bart Leinberger, who along with his wife, Rhonda, owns Alpacas of Indian Point Hills in Petersburg, said the animals will be judged in several categories divided by sex, color and age. There are 16 different colors of alpaca, he said.

Alpacas were imported to the United States in 1984. A smaller cousin to the llama, they are native to the Andes Mountains of South America, particularly Bolivia, Chile and Peru.

There are two types of alpacas in this country — the Huacaya, which is more common and has a fluffy, very fine coat; and the Suri, which has a silky coat that hangs in pencil-locks.

The animals are shorn every 12 to 18 months and produce five to 10 pounds of fiber, which is used by hand-spinners, knitters and fiber artists. Alpaca is as warm as wool, but weighs only about a third as much.

The animals’ fiber doesn’t contain lanolin and is naturally hypoallergenic.

Leinberger said the show is open to members of the national association as well as the Illinois group.

“We have some coming from Cleveland,” he said.

He said the seminars will include “Alpaca 101” for people who think they’re interested in entering the business. Many new alpaca owners and breeders come from non-farm backgrounds.

“The show will be an opportunity for newer people to get a feel for the animals,” he said.

People who simply are curious and want to get a look at the alpacas also are welcome.

Leinberger’s farm, now in its sixth year, has 43 alpacas.

“It’s a growing business.” he said. About 50 farms, including several in the Springfield area, are members of the Illinois association, he said.

For more information on the show, please visit http://www.railsplittershow.com/.