By Christina M. Wright
The Herald Bulletin
ALEXANDRIA, Ind. —
Emma Huffman,15, owns a llama. But that’s normal to her.
“They’re just more fun to work with than other animals,” she said.
Huffman — and her 2-year-old llama Calvin — won five awards during the llama/alpaca show at the Madison County 4-H Fair on Friday, including overall grand champion.
“She has an incredible rapport with her animal, and they really work,” said judge Lisa Alayza, who noted the show was graded on a point system. “They really work, and you can tell she worked with her animal a lot.”
The nearly 5-hour show may have had the least entrants of any other animal show at the fair, with 10. But the 4-H’ers were expected to do more interactive showing.
In the obstacle courses, the children guided their llamas and alpacas over a wooden rail, across a teeter board and backward through a two-foot lane.
The llamas and alpacas were also dressed in small Santa hats for photographs in the “public relations” class. An umbrella was also held over the heads to test their nerves.
Alayza said each 4-H’er was judged on how the animal performed, his or her interaction and the animal’s agility. It’s all on a point system, she said.
“It’s really that relationship,” she said. “That’s what it comes down to.”
If a good relationship is the key, Huffman’s proved it with multiple wins Friday. Afterward, she talked about llamas like they were members of her family.
“They have the best personalities,” she said.
Huffman also won champion poster, best public relations and best fiber crafts.
She said she made display box with needle-felted inspects. Huffman used Calvin’s fibers and hand-dyed them, she said.
“It’s kind of fun to make something out of your animal,” said llama leader Susan Markle, as she showed how to spin yarn from her alpaca’s fibers Friday. “It’s kind of fun to say, ‘This is David.’”
Eran McCarty, another llama and alpaca leader, said the 4-H’ers were a bit disappointed when one of their favorite classes — the costume contest — was canceled due to the heat. She said that, in the competition, the animal and exhibitor are dressed as pairs.
One pair was to be dressed as rappers, while another planned to be Cleopatra and King Tut. McCarty said she was tickled by the teenager and llama who had planned to be F. Scott Fitzgerald and Zelda. But the outfits would have been too hot for the animals, especially the one who was to be wrapped as a mummy.
“They’re very sensitive to heat,” McCarty said of the animals, adding the Andes Mountains natives appreciate a temperature of 30 to 40 degrees. She clocked the indoor arena temperature at 97 degrees.
The costume contest was rescheduled for sometime in the fall, McCarty said.
Markle said any local teenagers who want to participate in any llama or alpaca events don’t have to own their own animals; they can lease them.
“It’s really special because kids that live in town and can’t have livestock can lease them and care for them,” she said.
Huffman took the other option and has owned Calvin for almost a year. In that time, she said, she’s become accustomed to the big question: Do they spit?
“The answer is, ‘Yes, they do, but most of the time, not at people,” she said.
Contact Christina M. Wright, 640-4883, firstname.lastname@example.org.