Friendly, fleecy, fun, it’s alpacas

Animals of ‘the happy spot’ will greet public

By Mary Ann Albright, Columbian Staff Reporter



Did you know?

Want to learn some fun facts about alpacas in advance of this weekend’s Alpacapalooza?

Local and regional alpaca farmers offered the following tidbits:

• Alpacas are camelids, as are camels and llamas. They are domesticated animals, and are natives of the Andes Mountains in South America.

• Alpacas are bred for their fiber. Alpacas are shorn once each spring, and can yield five to 12 pounds of fleece per year.

• There are two types of alpacas: Huacaya and Suri. Huacaya fiber is dense, soft, crimpy and sheeplike, while Suri fiber resembles dreadlocks.

• Alpaca fleece comes in 22 natural shades.

• Alpacas are about half the size of llamas. Adults typically weigh between 150 and 200 pounds.

• The average lifespan for an alpaca is 15-20 years.

• Baby alpacas are called crias.

• The average gestation period of an alpaca is about 11½ months, and multiple births are very rare.

• Crias typically weigh 15-20 pounds when they’re born, and are usually up walking within an hour.

If you go

What: Alpacapalooza, an annual Alpaca Association of Western Washington event featuring alpacas for sale, alpaca judging and various contests, as well as vendors, seminars and a silent auction.

When: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. April 2-3.

Where: Clark County Event Center at the Fairgrounds, 17402 N.E. Delfel Road, Ridgefield.

Admission: Free.


Dreadlocks will descend upon Clark County this weekend, but it will be alpacas, not people, sporting the look.

Alpacas are camelids, like camels and llamas. There are two kinds of alpacas: Suri and Huacaya. Suri alpacas have fiber that grows in twisted ropes.

That’s just a sneak peek at the alpaca trivia people can glean at Alpacapalooza.

For the first time, the Alpaca Association of Western Washington’s annual Alpacapalooza is coming to Clark County. The event features alpacas for sale, judging, contests, vendors, seminars and a silent auction.

Organizers expect about 600 alpacas from farms throughout the West Coast, including several from Clark County.

“Alpacapalooza kind of starts the show season for all of us around here,” said Ken Slye, who owns Compass Rose Alpaca Farm in Ridgefield with his wife, Laura Henry Slye. “I’m looking forward to reuniting with folks I haven’t seen in a while. There are so many great people in the alpaca industry. It’s a fun get-together.”

Alpacapalooza may be geared toward alpaca breeders, but the free two-day event is also a fun family outing, said Jeff Williamson, president of the Alpaca Association of Western Washington and co-owner of Liberty Alpacas in Maple Valley.

“It’s a chance for people to get to see alpacas, get to know alpacas and learn more about the industry,” he said. “It’s a fun time.”

Throughout the weekend, breeders will see how their alpacas compare to the competition.

“It’s for alpaca breeders to come show their best animals in the ring, and have them judged and see how they stack up against other alpacas,” Williamson said.

In addition to judging, there will be photo and fiber-arts contests, and halter and fleece shows, as well as a silent auction. Seminars will take place both days and address topics such as alpaca care and the business side of breeding.

This is the 12th Alpacapalooza. The event is typically held in Puyallup. Moving to the Clark County Event Center at the Fairgrounds makes it possible for all the activities to take place indoors and under one roof, Williamson said.

It’s also much more convenient for Clark County participants, including Cory McNair, farm manager for The Alpaca Group in Ridgefield.

“It’s nice having it close to home,” he said.

The Alpaca Group plans to show about a dozen animals at Alpacapalooza. McNair also looks forward to seeing alpacas from other farms.

“We get to see what other farms are doing and how their breeding programs are improving and compare ourselves and see where we’re at. You see where you stack up, where you fall short and look for ways to improve,” he said.

McNair appreciates the chance to introduce people unfamiliar with alpacas to the animals, as well.

“They’re phenomenal,” he said, noting their friendly disposition.

People who have never touched alpacas or alpaca fleece before are in for a pleasant surprise, McNair added.

“(Their fiber’s) as warm as wool, but it’s as soft as cashmere,” he said.

Slye said he looks forward to showing more people what great pets alpacas make.

“They so enriched our lives,” he said. “People call our farm ‘the happy spot.’”

Barb Zimmerly, who owns Glenbar Alpacas in Ridgefield with her husband, Glen, concurs.

“They’re a nice, easy animal, and they’re fabulous with kids,” she said.