So I was looking at what was on tap for this weekend (April 27 and April 28), and I became entranced by the Great Midwest Alpaca. I don’t know why. It was something about how the festival seems to integrate everything from farm animals to knitting in one venue. As a knitter, I am naturally curious as to where all my gorgeous yarns come from. But I think it goes beyond that- I feel dissociated from my roots somehow. I mean I have never even felt a live alpaca ( what a city girl!), although I have knitted plenty of alpaca yarn. I have heard their fleece is surprisingly soft and airy. I have read that they come in 22 natural colors. Beyond that, I think that they are simply adorable! And regal. I mean look at the photos!! Unfortunately, a trip to Madison, Wisconsin is not in my future, but it may be in yours, so here’s what I’ve learned about the Great Midwest Alpaca Festival(from a novice/ city girl’s perspective).
I’ll start with the animals and the breeders. The alpaca breeder can participate in three events: a Herd Sire showcase, halter show, and fleece show. Now I am going to translate a bit here for my city friends, because although these events are intended for breeders, I think they might also prove fascinating for your average knitter or fiber enthusiast:
The Herd Sire Showcase: This is a presentation of male alpaca who are considered stud quality, meaning that they will sire the cria (baby alpaca) in a breeding program. The Herd Sire is tremendously important as it is responsible for half the genetics of an entire breeding program. In general, herd sires are valued for their soft, fine, crimpy fleece, their color, their bone structure, proportion and curb appeal.
The Halter Show: This is a judged show of alpacas grouped by age, gender, color and type. Similar to a dog show (my reference point), alpacas are led by their handler into a ring. They circle the ring and are judged on their size, structure and quality of movement. Afterward, they stand in place while the judge looks at the animal’s teeth and examines it’s fleece for crimp, fineness, density and color. The males must suffer the additional indignity of getting their testicles examined. The judge then places the animals, and gives reasons for his placements.
The Fleece Show: Fleece is judged for density, fineness, luster, crimp and feel. In general, there are two main types of alpaca: huacaya and suri. Huacaya fleece is crimpy, and puffy; Suri fleece is long and silky. Fleece is judged for density, fineness, luster, crimp and feel.
In addition to these shows, there will be a busy marketplace for fiber lovers of every stripe. Yarn, roving, spinning wheels, fiber supplies, clothes- you name it- will be for sale. There will be an area devoted to demonstrations of sorting, skirting, drum carding, and spinning. “Make and Take” classes will appeal to the novice fiber enthusiast: introductory offerings include knitting, crocheting, wet felting, and needle felting. There will even be some classes for kids. And if you really get inspired, you can attend seminars on how to start and run your own alpaca business. There will also be a silent auction, with proceeds going to alpaca-related charities.
So if you manage to make it this festival, let me know how it is! It sounds like it is going to be wonderful!