Colorado is among North American areas claiming a growing number of alpaca owners and breeders, as well as being home to many skilled fiber artists. Both contingents will focus on the National Alpaca Show, scheduled March 17-19 at the National Western Complex in Denver. Admission is free.
Hundreds of these animals will be shown, bought and sold and enjoyed on the long weekend. And many weavers, spinners, knitters and others will also visit to shop and to display and sell their soft, silky handcrafts, as well as skeins of yarn for those who want to produce their own sweaters, socks, scarves, gloves, throws and more. This is yarn that people sensitive to wool can often wear, since it doesn’t contain lanolin.
Material from the Alpaca Owners Association tells us that the alert, intelligent animals, members of the camelid family, indigenous to South America, average about 36 inches at the withers and generally weigh 150 to 200 pounds. Fleece is silky and fine and can be shorn without harm to the animals every 12 to 18 months (five to 10 pounds of fleece per year). They have been domesticated for thousands of years.
There are two types of alpacas: the fluffy huacaya, the more common (about 90 percent), and the suri, with its silky fleece that grows in pencil locks. Both like to be part of a group and communicate with a soft hum at times.
The owners association, which includes a national registry of animals, was incorporated in 1991 and is located in Lincoln, Nebraska. It has about 6,000 members and more than 250,000 alpacas registered.
Some alpaca owners maintain a retail store to sell their products and those created by other fiber artists. Everything Alpaca in Castle Rock sells beautiful handmade sweaters, socks, baby and children’s clothing, toys, blankets, rugs and of course, yarn. The shop’s website lists eight Colorado breeders who contribute to stock. A look at an interactive map of Colorado breeders shows a great many across the state, including numerous Douglas County locations.
If you go
The 2017 National Alpaca Show will take place March 17 to 19 at the National Western Complex, 4655 Humboldt St., Denver. The show is sponsored by Red Granite Alpacas in Northern Colorado. Admission is free. Hours: March 17 and 18: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.; March 19: 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. There will be a booth for selfie photos with an alpaca!