Junior Presenters Showcase Alpacas At Manitowoc Fair

An alpaca dressed as a pirate? Another wearing a diaper?

Yes, indeed, at the Manitowoc County Fair. This is the second year the fair has included Junior Fair alpaca judging, and a costume contest was part of Friday morning’s competition.

Sara Copple, a 10-year-old from the St. Nazianz area, took top honors – a first blue ribbon – for dressing herself and an alpaca named Aladdin as pirates.

“We just went through the fabric at the house and decided what we wanted to be,” Sara said. “I thought it would be cute ’cause we ... had all the stuff for pirates.”

Another sight that may have been surprising for fairgoers passing through the Walters Building during the judging was the alpacas going through an obstacle course. Among the tasks were walking through a baby pool with water in it, maneuvering through three orange cones, and walking sideways over a rod lying on the ground.

A 1-year-old alpaca named Opportunity successfully walked sideways over the rod for handler Alex Perleberg, 14, a member of the Mishicot Marvels 4-H Club, and he walked away with a blue ribbon for the obstacle course.

“We just practiced a lot,” he said. However, “she never really liked it” and didn’t do the sideways walking much during practice so Perleberg “was really surprised” when she did it during the judging.

Having the alpacas go through the obstacle course gets them accustomed to walking on different surfaces, which is useful when taking them out into the community, such as to visit a school or nursing home, according to Barb Laux who came from Sheboygan County to judge the alpacas.

Other categories of judging include halter, or conformation, which focuses on how the animal looks, and showmanship, which judges the student’s handling of the animal, she said. For conformation, Laux said she looks for things like how squarely the animal stands and whether it’s holding its head high. Showmanship includes the handler’s rapport with the alpaca, knowing the names of its body parts, watching the judge and smiling. Classes are divided according to age of the animal for halter and age of the student for showmanship, Laux said.
Cheyenne Lane, 11, of Whitelaw, a member of the Paws ’N‘ Pals 4-H Club, took grand supreme in the halter competition for female alpacas, showing a 1-year-old named Bit of Honey.

“She’s always very sweet, and she’s a show girl,” Cheyenne said.

The young people don’t need to have their own alpaca, or even live in a rural area, to show alpacas at the fair. They just need an arrangement with someone who does own alpacas. For instance, Cheyenne and two other students were showing animals from LondonDairy Alpacas, Two Rivers. Kevin Stoer of LondonDairy said the students are encouraged to come and work with their animal at least every other week.

“They’re just a lot of fun to work with,” Cheyenne said. “Every alpaca’s different.”

She hadn’t met any alpacas prior to learning about them through 4-H, she said, and neither had her friend, Larissa Thomas, 12, of Manitowoc. Cheyenne got Larissa involved in 4-H and took her to a meeting about alpacas. Larissa hadn’t heard of alpacas but when she saw one she thought “they were cool.”

Among the ribbons Larissa took home was a second blue for dressing her 1-year-old alpaca, Emmy, as a baby in a diaper and bib. She plans to continue showing alpacas “’cause they’re fun,” she said.

Alex said he didn’t know about alpacas prior to 4-H, either.

“They’re fun to work with,” he said. “They’re really nice, they’re very curious, they’re soft. I like them.”

However, it’s a different story when the alpacas aren’t in a cooperative mood, according to Alex.

“When they’re crabby, it’s kind of a chore ’cause they don’t want to listen, and then they stop and pee and poop for like three minutes,” he said. They don’t get crabby often, “but when they do it’s really annoying.”

“They’re nice to play with and stuff. They’re cute,” said Sara, the 10-year-old who won the costume contest. Sara, who also is in Paws ’N‘ Pals, likes “spending time with my favorite animals.”
Positive activity

This is the fourth year since planning began to include alpacas and llamas at the fair, according to Stoer. It’s the second year of judging, and participation grew from three alpacas last year to seven this year, handled by six students. No llamas were entered this year or last year.

“This gives kids an opportunity to handle livestock, and not a big livestock species, like cows or horses, and I think they’re great animals to work with,” Stoer said. “Some of these kids will never have an opportunity to own an animal, but the whole thing is here they can show an animal, and I think that showing develops leadership.”

It’s a way to get children involved in a positive activity, and “sometimes kids connect better with animals than they do with people,” he said.

Some children may be afraid to work with larger livestock, Laux said, and “this gives them an alternative.” She said she thinks alpacas and llamas are “a great addition” to the fair.