Ya gotta love a llama, show participants say

The Wichita Eagle

It was all llamas all the time Saturday at the Kansas Pavilions.

Well, some alpacas, too.

The Alpaca Llama Show Association’s 17th Annual Grand National Show of Champions brought people from across the country to Wichita to show off their perfectly coiffed South American camelids. Llamas maneuvered through obstacle courses, carried packs and pulled carts.

Twelve llamas from Jim and Marilyn Nenni’s Shagbark Ridge Llamas in Noblesville, Ind., made the trek for the nationals.

A group of teenaged girls helped show llamas from the Nennis’ farm.

Dressed in jeans with rhinestone belts, the girls looked like they could have been about to put on a country music concert.

“In Hamilton County, we all have sparkly belts,” said Lexi Foerder, 14.

The girls were competing in five classes. Three were performance classes, one was showmanship and one was youth judging. During youth judging, the goal was to come as close to the actual judges’ decisions as possible.

The performance classes involved obstacle and pack courses and public relations and aim to judge the handler and llama as a team.

Showmanship is simply “you presenting your llama,” Lexi said.

The girls qualified for the national show by doing well at earlier competitions.

Katie Tuttle, 13, won in showmanship Saturday. This was her first year showing Saxony, a tan-colored llama.

Showmanship is stressful, because “you always have to be looking at the judge and make sure you look nice and make sure your llama looks nice, too,” Katie said.

But it paid off. She won a ribbon and $50.

Working with llamas is fun, the girls said, because the animals are sweet.

“The interaction with the animals” is what got Olivia Mitchel, 13, into handling llamas.

“They’re so different from other animals,” Olivia DeWitt, 14, said.

But handling llamas is a big commitment, said Becca Foerder, 14.

The girls do chores at the farm and help take care of the llamas.

Becca said friends ask her and her sister why they’re always busy. The answer’s easy: llamas.

Jeff Rutledge and his daughter, Zoe, traveled to Wichita from south of San Antonio with nine llamas.

He said it’s true the animals are loving.

“He’ll follow my daughter around like a puppy,” Rutledge said of a llama named Acer. “They’re just gentle giants.”

Reach Deb Gruver at 316-268-6400 or dgruver@wichitaeagle.com. Follow her on Twitter: @SGCountyDeb.