More than 130 alpacas and llamas arrived in Hutchinson this weekend. Llama farms from Florida, California, Texas, Colorado and Kansas were represented at the Alpaca Llama Show Association Grand National Show on the Kansas State Fairgrounds.
The llamas and alpacas were to be judged on agility, fleece, appearance and structure. Many of the owners raise the animals as a hobby. Others sell them or use their fiber for making scarves and mittens.
“It’s a lot of fun to come here,” said Andrea Johnson, 23, from Grundy Center, Iowa. “We enjoy showing our llamas."
Johnson and her sister Erika, 18, brought nine llamas to the event. They view raising llamas as a hobby. They left more than 30 back at their farm.
But showing llamas and alpacas means more than just competition to many — it means reconnecting with old friends.
Eileen Ditsler, from just outside Los Angeles, looks forward to the national show each year.
“Socializing is my favorite part,” she said. “I started showing 22 years ago. What’s not to love about llamas?”
Brianna Jensen from Lincoln, Neb., started showing llamas when she was 8, more than 17 years ago. Now, she is bringing her children, ages 6 and 2, to the show, along with her four llamas and one alpaca.
“We started at 4-H and we’ve kind of grown,” Jensen said. “When we sell any, the money goes back to the farm.”
Lauren Wright, 32, from Sarasota, Fla., has shown for more than 20 years. She also started as a child. Wright owns 30 llamas and alpacas. She just became engaged to another llama farmer.
“This is like the Westminster Show for llamas,” said Wright’s father, Vern Wright.
Steve Auld, who ran the show with his wife, Sandy, loves llamas and alpacas. He said the animals are highly intelligent and do not spit on people unless they are provoked. The Aulds drove in from Garden City, Mo.
“If worked with and trained like a dog, they will follow you like a dog,” Auld said. “They are very low odor animals. They can guard livestock, sheep, camels and goats.”
A llama takes almost a year in gestation, and they usually do not have twins. Glenna Overmiller from Smith Center has several pregnant llamas back on her farm, where she raises 17 of them. This year, Overmiller brought two to the show. Overmiller is also the superintendent of the llama show at the state fair. She makes scarves, hats, socks and gloves from her llamas’ fibers.
“Their demeanor is so wonderful,” Overmiller said. “They’re so loving. You just have to love them.”