No dog-and-pony show

Thurston County fairgrounds: Llamas and alpacas star in Christmas-themed event

rboone@theolympian.comJuly 2, 2012 

Llama and alpaca owners throughout the Northwest gathered Sunday at the Thurston County Fairgrounds, completing a weekend of competitive activities in which the animals vied for ribbons, trophies and points.

To add to the fun, the animal owners and vendors wore Christmas colors or decorated their booths in ways more suitable for December.

It all was part of the fourth annual Jingle Bells Extravaganza Llama & Alpaca Show, which for the past two years has been held at the fairgrounds, co-organizer

and llama owner Niki Kuklenski of Bellingham said.

But why the Christmas theme?

“We just thought it would be fun,” said Kuklenski, owner of a llama named Rosabella.

About 110 llamas and alpacas and their owners descended on the fairgrounds, including Kelly McWhorter, 48, and two of her llamas from her Moonbeam Llamas farm in Olympia.

On Sunday, she showed Venicia, a 3-year-old llama and a past grand champion in a category for heavy wool females. Also with her was Karnival, 5.

The goal of some owners is to achieve enough points to reach the status of finished halter champion, a designation that can increase the value of the llama, she said.

On Saturday, the animals were judged on an obstacle course, while on Sunday they were judged on such things as their halters and fleece.

McWhorter owns seven llamas, four of whom she shows; the rest are pets, she said. She said llama personalities are similar to cats: Some are outgoing and friendly while others are shy and reserved.

“How can anyone look at this face and not think it’s beautiful?” McWhorter said about Venicia, adding that she fell in love with the animal’s big brown eyes.

Although McWhorter’s llamas are for show or are pets, llamas also are used as pack animals and their wool can be sheared and transformed into clothing.

Vendor Larry Shrout of Renton was selling his homemade drop spindles, a device that puts the twist in yarn, whether it’s from a sheep, rabbit, llama or alpaca, he said. Llama wool works particularly well because its individual hairs are longer, Shrout said.

Once the fiber is turned into yarn, it can be knitted into clothes, for example.

Shrout retired from Boeing after 36 years and now operates Ollar’s Drop Spindles. He attends five to seven shows a year. Sunday was his second time at the fairgrounds.

rboone@theolympian.com 360-754-5403 theolympian.com/bizblog @rolf_boone

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