MABA hosts successful ninth annual festival
WEST FRIENDSHIP, Md. — Despite Old Man Winter’s attempt to make an early entrance, early reports indicated the ninth annual Maryland Alpaca and Fleece Festival, held Veteran’s Day weekend at the Howard County Fairgrounds, had been a success.
“I’ve only talked to about half of the vendors so far, and most did well,” said Kathy Graziani, co-chairperson for the festival, late Sunday afternoon as she packed up her own booth for Flame Pool Alpacas.
“The traffic was pretty steady both days,” Graziani continued. “And, despite the wind yesterday, we still had a good crowd.”
Graziani added, along with others involved with the festival’s planning, how they’d received an enthusiastic response to the costume parade put on by the Frederick and Carroll County 4-H Clubs.
The consensus from all involved was the parade, held early Sunday afternoon, succeeded in pulling in even those who were headed for a kids sale also being held on the Fairgrounds further down the Midway at the Main Exhibition Hall.
Even as the 4-Hers began to assemble with their costumed alpacas, they were almost immediately surrounded. At a polite distance, of course, and not from behind, as Renee Sherman, co-leader of the Carroll County 4-H Club, reminded everyone.
As they waited for the last couple 4-Hers to finish dressing both themselves and their alpacas, Sherman answered questions from those around her, including where she’d procured the butterfly wings that adorned the back of the alpaca she was handling for the parade. “Goodwill,” she said. “Four dollars.”
Sherman also explained that “typically in a true costume contest [at a show with judges], both the handler and the alpaca would dress up and be coordinated.
She noted that the challenge in such contests is that the alpacas don’t necessarily like to have things placed “on their heads, same with their back and legs. But,” she continued, “it’s not about doing something to them that they don’t like, rather it’s about working with them so that they’ll trust their handler.”
Colton Williamson, one of the 4-H handlers from the Frederick County Club, agreed that it’s a matter of trust between alpaca and handler. Wearing a bright yellow mackintosh and sporting a floppy fishing hat, Colton led Rocky, who wore a large cardboard blue crab strapped on his back. Well, at least he did at the beginning of the parade.
Rocky, who is “normally a very tolerable alpaca,” said Colton, quickly tired of the crab costume and it ended up carried by Susan Williamson, D.V.M., Colton’s mother and the veterinarian conducting the mandatory vet inspections and health certifications for the animals brought to the festival.
During a later discussion of Rocky’s rejection of the crab costume, Susan said, “It’s a lot of people and a lot of hubbub for them to handle.” Gesturing towards a couple of alpacas in the middle of one of the barns, she continued, “They’re very much a pack animal and these guys would love to be down there,” indicating four alpacas grouped in adjoining pens at the other end of the barn.
Fortunately for those two alpacas, 4 p.m., on Sunday rolled around, the packing up began, and they could look forward to going back to their home field with their herd buddies.
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