Alpaca show battles for foot traffic on fair day

While nearly 50,000 people were in Hillsboro Saturday to take in the Arts & Crafts Fair, a second craft show of sorts was under way on the county fairgrounds.

Eli Velazquez-Wallace of Wichita watches as Phyllis Atkinson, a partner with husband Charles in Pipe Creek Alpaca Farm near Minneapolis, spins alpaca fleece into yarn during the Kansas Alpaca Association Field Day Saturday at the fairgrounds in Hillsboro. Members of the Kansas Alpaca Association were offering a variety of alpaca and alpaca products for the public to see and experience in the 4-H Building.

Ron Dies of Lehigh, president of the KAA, said the annual Farm Day event has been located in Hillsboro for the past two years.

He said he is looking for ways to get the word out about the event, locally and around the state.

?Basically, we?re here to promote the alpaca industry,? Dies said. ?I think it?s a good thing for the town. People love these animals, and the products are good products.?

Of the 11 alpaca farms that are registered members of the KAA, about a half dozen participated in the show.

Charles and Phyllis Atkin?son, owners of the Pipe Creek Alpaca Farm near Minneapolis, brought two of their 22 animals?a mother alpaca named Windy and her 1-year-old female offspring, Ciara.

These two alpaca, Ciara (left) and Windy, belong to Charles and Phyllis Atkinson. The Atkinsons were retired school teachers when they began their alpaca operation.

?They?re just fun animals to be around,? Charles said. ?They?re real sociable.?

Phyllis said she taught herself to spin their fine alpaca fleece into yarn.

?I went on the Internet, saw demonstrations there and learned from that,? she said. ?When I first started doing this, I had a stress fracture in my ankle. It ended up I had to have surgery, but for about two to three months I treadled with one foot. That?s how I learned.?

Phyllis demonstrated her spinning skill during the show, and even let passers-by take a turn on her ?ladybug? spinning wheel, named for its small size.

Meanwhile, Dies said he is looking for ways to increase the traffic at the show, which also included a few other craft vendors from the area.

?I think if I can get the people in if I can get the vendors in,? he said. ?I have to figure out a way to get people from downtown to come in.?

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