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April 02, 2015

By: Beth Lutz

4-H Alpaca Extravaganza

Getting Kids Involved

On a beautiful weekend in June, the first ever 4H Alpaca Extravaganza was held at the York County (PA) 4H Center. The idea was over a year in the making and was actually the brain child of Richard and Lisa German of Whispering Meadows Alpaca Breeders who are long time 4H leaders from the Fredrick County 4H club in MD. Rick judged our 4H show 2 years ago and was so impressed with the facility that he wanted to share it with the kids in his club. The Germans, together with Linda Spahr, the Animal Science Educator for the Penn State Extension in York and myself, came up with the idea of an overnight camp for our 2 clubs. As our plans developed, we came to realize that we had a lot to offer kids from all over PA and MD and opened up the invitation to all the 4H clubs we knew of across PA and parts of MD.

For our first year we had 25 kids aged 8 to 17 participate. On Friday night, Rick had more games for the kids to get to know each other than we had time for. Saturday we had breakout sessions with kids with alpaca experience and kids with less experience. Our classes included a showmanship workshop taught by Rick German, an obstacle class taught by Barb Hartsough of Hart-so-Big Alpacas, a nutrition workshop with Linda Spahr, a fleece to finished product class with Al Beatty of Bellasera Alpacas, a wet felting activity taught by Tammy Orschack of The Alpaca Cottage and a yarn & fiber dying activity that I taught. Michele Siplivy from Suri Alpacas of Shiloh & the Cumberland Co. 4H Alpaca Club was there to help out wherever needed. The kids were busy all day and no one complained that they were bored. After a cookout and more games, it didn’t take long for everyone to fall asleep on Saturday Night.

On Sunday all the kids got together and had an alpaca behavioral class taught by Rick. I had supplied 6 alpacas for the kids to work with so I was a little nervous when Rick told me we were going to “accidentally” leave the barn door open and let the alpacas out to wander the 5 acre campus. The facility does have fencing all around, but for everyone who has ever had to catch an alpaca, you know how hard it is to catch them in a big open space. The idea of this was to teach the kids how the alpacas react to people and to other alpacas. They were broken into two teams and each team was timed to see how long it would take the group to get the alpacas back into the barn. It was a fun activity and both teams completed the task in between 3 and 4 minutes.

We wanted the kids to have something to take with them from the camp, so our last group activity was to have each kid make their own lead rope out of the yarn that was dyed the day before. Again, the kids worked together to get the job done and had a beautiful and very serviceable lead rope to use at home.

A special Thank You goes out to PAOBA. PAOBA gave a generous Educational Grant to the camp so that the kids could attend at a reduced price. With the grant from PAOBA, we were able to offer the camp for an amazing $10 per camper. There couldn’t be a much better educational event than to bring kids from all over PA and MD together to learn about alpacas. Our goal for next year is to open up the camp to non-4H kids as well so that we can teach even more children about alpacas.

If you are interested in starting a 4H club in your area, I or any of the current 4H leaders would be happy to talk with you about what it takes to get a club going.

Published in the PAOBA Planet Fall 2013