Visitors might have thought they had been magically transported to Peru or Bolivia when they entered the llama barn at the Big E. After all, the Big E is the Disneyland of animals and livestock. Llamas and alpacas of all shades and their young were in abundance and being cared for by their owners, being readied for showing. Rather than the llamas guarding their livestock, some owners slept in sleeping bags guarding their llamas.
On Thursday, Sept. 29, yet another record breaking attendance day with 84,111 visitors at the Big E in Springfield, MA. Beside the pen where Donna Zurstadt’s had her llamas stationed there were six sleeping bags set up on cots inside a pen where four children and two moms slept. Donna owns 18 llamas and seven alpacas at her farm, Little Creek Acres, in Higganum, CT. As the leader of the 4-H Llamas with Hats Club, her llamas are project animals for her 4-H members.
Three of her 4-H members at the fair were Isabelle and Brianna Roberson, both 13, of Meriden, CT, and Julia Sweeney of Washington, CT, age 12.
Sweeney wore a blue hooded sweatshirt emblazoned, No Prob-llama. She has been working with llamas for five years. “I enjoy working with llamas. I had a friend who had a passion for working with animals. My friend got me into it. We don’t own them. We work with them at Donna’s.”
They help take care of them by feeding, watering, bathing and brushing them, and putting down their bedding. The camelid she was attending was a tall, dark fibered llama named Trinity. Sisters Isabelle and Brianna Roberson worked with a tall white llama named Angelina and a baby one named, appropriately, Little Noel. The confidence that 4-H fosters was evident in how they handled and led their llamas, with no fear and much gentleness, wearing their mantle of responsibility proudly.
This was Sweeney’s first year showing at the Big E, and the fifth show of their fair season. They have previously showed their llamas at the 4-H Fair in Durham, CT and elsewhere.
Together, the three girls proudly showed off the lanyards they had made of spun fiber, complete with interwoven beadwork, all part of their learning about llamas and their uses.
In another pen were Hill Crest Alpacas owned by Shirley and Roger Lanouette of North Dartmouth, MA. The couple has been working with alpacas for a decade, for producing their fiber and also for breeding excellent stock.
Shirley Lanouette said, “I also do a lot of spinning with the fiber. It’s phenomenal, no matter what you use it on. It’s water resistant and fire retardant. It is a hollow core fiber that allows your skin to breathe. It has no lanolin at all, no anything at all; no impurities.”
They exhibited a fluffy fawn colored one-year-old female named Stella and a two-year-old male named Tiki, pitch black, kept in two separate pens. “We don’t start breeding the males until they’re three years old,” said Roger Lanouette. Altogether they have 28 alpacas raised on their six and half acre farm.
Tiki placed 1st in the full fleece dark older male class. Stella placed 2nd in full fleece fawn yearlings; fawn, a caramel brown, is currently the rage in fiber. Shown by Roger Lanouette, Tiki placed 4th in showmanship. Shown by his wife, Stella place 5th in showmanship. “A lot of people stopped by to look at them. They just have that draw,” said Shirley Lanouette.