May 25, 2010

My Thoughts on the National Alpaca Conference thoughts. That could be dangerous. :o) Where to start....

As a farm still in it's toddler stage (sorry, I think like a mom), we are still new to shows. We visited our first alpaca show in April of 2009. It was the Indiana Alpaca Invitational and it was a level V show. It was an awesome experience and I have to admit it spoiled us a little.

We attended our first show as participants in September of last year with just one animal. We had a great time there too. We were ready to keep on showing and really looking forward to the 2010 Spring shows.

It was around Christmas time when we found out that the National Alpaca Conference was coming to Ft. Wayne, IN. What luck!! Ft. Wayne is only about 1 1/2 hours from here. Practically in our backyard! This is also the same place we've attended other shows so it was a little like a homecoming. Immediately we assumed we'd go as alpaca exhibitors because why would we pass this opportunity up?

Registration opened up in March and I was first in line (metaphorically speaking). Enter huge disappointment #1. The price for registration was unbelievable! It was far higher than any other show we'd attended and too far out of our budget. It took only about a minute to realize we weren't going to Nationals with our animals. :( Instead we choose to focus on other things we could enter. Spin-offs were an obvious choice.

If you don't know what spin-offs are they are a competition in which your alpaca's fiber is judged anonymously on it's characteristics and it's ability to be spun into yarn. You get lots of feedback from the judging and it gives your animal a chance to get a ribbon without the stress of a trailer ride. Very cool!

I also sent in some of my photos to the photography contest. We all know I can't resist a photo contest. :o)

Well, now we are up to show time. The show was this past weekend and originally I thought we weren't going to visit it at all, but we were able to take off Sunday afternoon to check it out. I had a feeling that by the time we got down there a good majority of the farms would be packing up for their drives home, but the emptiness of that arena was astounding. Enter huge disappointment #2.

We mostly went to say we had gone to Nationals and to see how our spin-offs and photos had done. I also really wanted to see the vendors because they usually have some great show specials and I can buy things in person to save on shipping.

We arrived at the show about 1pm. Now according to the schedule the show was open to the public until 4pm and alpaca and vendor move-out was from 4-10pm. I guess no one reads the schedule because the first thing we see when we walk in is dozens of empty paca and vendor stalls.

If you happened to read my post about the Indiana show in April you know my feelings about farms leaving early. I know some of them have long drives, but the vendors I couldn't believe. Why would you leave early and lose the potential sales? To all of you that left early...don't expect any future business from me.

I was also completely amazed that the AOBA people had already taken down all of the fiber arts projects, yarn skeins and photographs. Grrr. I had come down to see how my photos placed and of course wanted to check out the competition.

I found one of the people wandering around with an AOBA staff name tag and asked her about the photos. I told her that I had come down to see the show that afternoon and had wanted to see the photos. She apologized, but didn't seem that apologetic. I had to explain to her that I had entered photos and wanted to see how they placed. She finally went and retrieved the box they had been put in. Turns out I had a 1st, 3rd and an honorable mention. Whohoo, I guess. Seemed like a let down after not being able to see them up.

At least the spin-offs were still up, but because they were behind tables I couldn't find my animals. They were too far away for my poor eyes to see. Disappointment #3.

We walked through the animal pens and although a vast majority were packed up and empty we did see a few nice animals. One huacaya in particular caught my attention. We've been looking to add a fawn female to our breeding herd so I was kind of looking. In the back of the lower level sort of by where the shearing was taking place was a pen with 2 huacayas in it. The fawn colored one was gorgeous. Unfortunately there was no farm sign, no registration certs hanging, no identification what so ever. In fact I have no idea if it was male or female. I thought about getting in and lifting it's tail, but if someone had done that with mine I'd have been pissed, so I stayed out.

To the unknown farm that had this animal....If this animal had been female I probably would have made you a cash offer right there. Your loss.

We did have a great time with the vendors so one thing went right. I got some new halters and Jim got some socks. We also got a really great deal on a universal chip reader. That alone made the drive worthwhile.

On the way out we were able to pick up our spin-offs. We sent 3. Two placed. Our Chu Chu got a 2nd place and Jack (the same Jack that I keep mooning over when I spin) got a 6th place. Not bad considering the number of whites he was up against.

Overall the whole experience was a big disappointment (I think you might have already figured that out) and I'm really losing any enthusiasm I once had for shows.


  1. Stephani..So sorry your experience was a disappointment. I was there all day on Saturday and had a wonderful day. Of course it was my first show to attend and I was absorbing everything as fast as I could. I am new to the alpaca world. Exhibits were still up when I left around 6pm (except I never saw the photos at all.) Stalls were still full, but I did see many with no identification/contact info. Also, there were many owners I would have loved to discuss their animals with, but they were nowhere to be found. I missed making some important contacts, because they were not near their animal's pens to speak to. Just leaving a business card isn't enough for a prospective buyer. I also would have loved to see more USA emphasis, instead of Peruvian influence in the vendors...although I understand the whys and wherefores of it. Heritage is important of course, but let's focus more on what we can do with alpaca fiber here and now! I was sorry I didn't get to meet you, but look forward to a visit sometime in the future. Until then...see you online!

  2. Stephani, Sorry you had a disappointing day at Nationals. You may have seen our fawn girl in the lowere level by the shearers. It was her last show and she was being transported to another farm for breeding. They asked for her to be brought down to their stall, since they were prepping to leave. Check out our website as she is going to have an awesome breeding.
    I totally agree with you on farms leaving early. We were there (upper level) until after 5pm. One suggestion when you can't find a breeder at their stall..pick up their business card (if available) and call them. Chances are they have a cell phone and can come back to the stall if they're not in the ring. We'll be back to the Indiana show next spring. Maybe we'll meet you then. Don't give up on the show experience! It's my favorite part of the business (next to the critters!).
    Libby Stover
    The Wood Farm

  3. I share in your disappointment. We did show at Nationals, but, I didn't learn nearly as much at this show as I have in any other show I have attended. I agree, it was hard to find people to talk to.

    I hope it wasn't my fawn girl you saw. I would be so disappointed not to show her off to you. She's a beauty. She was in the lower level, but there were 2 other girls in the stall with her (3 in the pen total), and my kids were sitting by the stall. (I'm not sure when we did take our signs down, they may have been down by then). My kids could tell you anything you wanted to know about her. They have known her since they saw her being born.

    For the spin off, we just walked right behind the tables and took a look at everything. Our boy won 1st, so good thing we did check it out closely. I figure if they didn't want me back there, someone would tell me to leave ;)

    I think overall the show stretched out longer than it needed to. 3 days of showing is a long time. I know I was beat, I imagine most farmers and alpacas were too. But, what a poor message to anyone visiting later on Sunday. If we want to reach out to people as an industry, we need to be available to do that. Many shows I've been too won't let you leave too early for exactly that reason.



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