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HARRISON – Despite the dayslong forecast for rain and likelihood of a thunderstorm, throngs of animal loving visitors came out Saturday to enjoy the 3rd Annual Alpaca Palooza at Living the Good Live Alpaca Acres. This is a special event, provided by the farm’s owners Sam and Wendy Keith.
While visitors watched with keen interest the alpacas’ activities and antics, that interest was returned equally by the alpacas as they expressed great curiosity about the many new people standing in the barn and just outside their enclosures. Taking special delight were the children who were lip-tickled ever so slightly as they offered handfuls of alpaca feed.
It was interesting to see people undaunted by the light intermittent rain, while at the first smattering of raindrops the alpacas made a beeline for the barn. Even though alpacas love getting wet at their “pool parties,” they do not like to be rained on.
Extra special appeal this year came in the form of three young alpaca boys. The first was little gray Alex who was born last year to Anna, who had been the only gray alpaca at the farm. The other two new 1-year-old boys arrived at the end of March and have adapted quite well to their new home. They are black (Raidan) and gray (Malachite), and they both think Anna is their mom, too.
People had lots of questions for the Keiths, and since the herd had been sheared just a few days before, many of those questions had to do with fleece. They learned that the huacaya alpacas (think teddy bear) are sheared every year, while the suri alpacas (think dreadlocks) are sheared every other year. This year was the off year for the suris and so they only had their bellies sheared as a means of helping them to stay a bit cooler over the summer. Sam Keith said the reason for the alternate year shearing had to do with the fact that suri fleece is highly prized and the longer it is, the better.
Aside from viewing the alpacas, visitors were able to visit the LTGLAA store to shop for all things alpaca: stuffed toy alpacas, alpaca art pieces, socks, mittens, shawls, shoulder capes, scarves and hats. And, as usual, the store had many new offerings including one with special meaning to the Keiths.
The Keiths use the needlework expertise of several individuals to produce the goods made from their yarns for sale in the gift shop and online, but Wendy said the services of one particular knitter have been directed to the production of a special, super soft hat designed for the needs of cancer patients. Sam Keith has undergone a recent battle with lung cancer, and that further underscored the decision that a portion those hat sales be directed to the American Cancer Society. It has taken some coordination to assure supply will keep up with demand, but the hats are available and it’s full steam ahead.
The day included lots of additional vendors onsite offering hot fast food, baked goods, jewelry, personal care products, alpaca print fabric items, and so much more. A spinner was in attendance, demonstrating the art of turning fleece into yarn, and there was even a “paint your own alpaca cookie” station offered by Tara Gravel of Doughmestic Creations. That station was quite popular, and the supply of cookies was soon exhausted. Also popular was an alpaca coloring contest, won by a young man named William who received a sizeable stuffed alpaca for his effort. Check out the LTGLAA Facebook page to see his beaming face.
Musical entertainment for the day was provided by Mike Schmuck of Luther, Michigan, better known as The Ramblin’ Man.
All in all, it was another great turnout, with a lot of smiling visitors – also known as those smitten by Alpaca Love.
The LTGLAA farm and gift shop at 611 N. Bringold Ave. are open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday, or by appointment. It also might not be too early to make a plan to visit the farm Sept. 28 for another community event as the Keiths celebrate National Alpaca Farm Days. The alpacas’ fleece will have begun growing out by then, and believe it or not, they can actually get even cuter!