Strolling through the llama and alpaca pens at the Clark County Fair, you might think you’ve stumbled onto the set of an Avengers movie where the actors have been replaced with farm animals.
To the left, a pair of llamas donning superhero costumes calmly trade stares. Across the way, another four-legged animal dressed in full armor appears ready for battle.
Strange? Yes. But it’s perhaps one of the most fascinating sights you’ll find at the fair.
The furry, wide-eyed camelids have spent the past week in full costume building up the anticipation for Saturday and Sunday’s big open-class competitions: a series of obstacle courses for the charming creatures and their owners. The competition boils down to which llamas can best be guided to make it through a number of challenges, like jumping, walking backward through a doorway or interacting with people.
For Shannon Hendrickson — a Brush Prairie farmer who raised Clark County’s most famous camelid, Rojo the therapy llama — the event actually isn’t about the competition at all.
- What: Clark County Fair.
- Hours Friday: 10 a.m. to 11 p.m.
- Where: 17402 N.E. Delfel Road, Ridgefield.
- Admission: Adults, $11.25; seniors 62 and older, $9.25; kids 7-12, $8.25 (includes processing fees); kids 6 and younger, free. Parking, $6. C-Tran shuttle, free from area Park & Ride lots.
- Carnival: Opens at noon.
- Highlights: Demolition Derby, at 2 and 7 p.m., in the grandstands.
- Other: Special Kids Rodeo at 6 p.m.; Code Blue performs rock, country and blues at 6 p.m.
- Pets: Not permitted, except for personal service animals or those on exhibition or in competition.
- Information: www.clarkcofair.com or 360-397-6180.
“That’s kind of a fun thing with bragging rights among the llama people,” Hendrickson said. “For me, it’s about having so much time to help change people’s opinions of llamas. They have such a poor reputation of being spitters or nasty farm animals.”
2015 marks Hendrickson’s 14th year at the fair, and it will be the 13th time she’s worked with Rojo in the obstacle courses. Donning shiny outfits with bright capes Thursday afternoon, two of Hendrickson’s llamas were ready to jump into action after several days at the fairgrounds.
“That’s Super Rojo,” she said. “And this is Smokey. He’s Rojo’s partner in justice.”
The docile animals attract a crowd, and they welcome the attention. In a sense, that’s what it’s all about.
“He likes being hugged,” Rob Woodard, a friend of Hendrickson’s, told a crowd of onlookers gathering to see Rojo up close. “If you want to give him a big hug, feel free.”
Bringing the llamas out to meet people at the fair for several days each year is great for the community and the animals, Hendrickson said.
“They’re gentle giants, and people are always so afraid of them,” she said.
Several dozen llamas and alpacas will compete in the obstacle competitions this year from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. For more information, visit clarkcofair.com.