Perkiomen Creek Ranch
  Alpacas raised with love

A Ring Steward’s View of the SAFONA Fall Classic Alpaca Show and Sale 

At 5’ 2” and 110 pounds, I was not sure what I was getting myself into when I volunteered to be a ring steward for the first time in my life. Yes, I have seen ring stewards at many alpaca shows in the past, but never paid particular attention to what they did, other than watch them scoop beans on occasion. So I printed the 8 bullet points of my job description that I received from Naomi and headed to the SAFONA Fall Classic Alpaca Show and Sale with Marcia and 2 of our alpacas.

Friday night was check-in at the Kutztown fairgrounds, and as we were late arrivers, many of the other farms were already settled in with their pens, alpacas, and show booths. The show ring was set up earlier in the day with a Fall ‘flavor’ consisting of spaced stacked straw bales connected with a white chain ring. Saturday morning before the show, I checked in with the AOBA certified judge Ruth Inglefield. I confessed that basically I had no clue what I was doing. She instructed me only on how she would like the alpacas to enter and move in the ring, everything else was for me to find out. As it turned out, it was fairly easy to catch on to ring steward responsibilities.

That is mainly because the show was well organized. The schedule of events and times were followed very closely. Joe Fenstermacher pre-announced the halter classes on deck, the gate keeper kept the on-deck alpacas organized outside the ring, and the judge was focused on moving methodically through the alpacas in the ring.

I learned quickly from the judge. I was able to direct the first class of alpacas in the ring, per her instructions, and then I lapsed into spectator mode as the judge started checking the teeth, ears, eyes, and fleece of a rambunctious alpaca. After the judge looked me in the eye and sternly instructed me to help hold the alpaca, I then astutely monitored the rest of the classes ready to jump in at a moment’s notice when an alpaca would not allow a calm close inspection.

I also quickly learned my other tasks such as recording the alpaca placements on a card, handing out ribbons, ensuring a calm exit out of the show ring, and keeping the judge informed of the number of entrants of the incoming class. Luckily for me (and the other alpaca exhibitors), Missi Cooper, DVM on call for the show, had an uneventful weekend and was able to record the alpaca placements and gather the ribbons for me to hand out.

There were over 70 alpacas (Huacayas and Suris) and over 30 exhibitors. Most of the exhibitors were experienced in showing and could handle their alpacas. Though in several instances, I was needed to help hold an alpaca for judging. In one incident, the handler and I had trouble controlling an alpaca that was about 1.75 times my weight, but Joe came to our aid to help stabilize the alpaca for the judge’s inspection.

The male halter classes were completed on the first day and the grand champion male Huacaya was selected from 13 blue ribbon winning males. A Suri male grand champion was also selected. After lunch, there were two costume classes. The first class was for non-adults and featured three aspiring alpaca farmers with their alpacas dressed as a bee, Santa Claus, and a pumpkin. Santa Claus was judged the winner. The second class was an open class that featured two entrants. One entrant and her alpaca were dressed as a Q-tip. The second entrant (and the eventual winner) including a little girl by her side came dressed in holiday fashion leading two alpacas. The alpacas were adorned with reindeer antlers and leg jingles.
After the costume classes, other SAFONA members and myself set-up an obstacle course that increased in difficulty from the sub-junior, junior, intermediate, and open classes. All the entrants were entertaining as they maneuvered their alpaca through the course. At the end of all the obstacle classes, the judge gathered all interested handlers and for each obstacle provided them pointers to use in future alpaca show obstacle classes.

The second day featured all the female classes with the grand champion female Huacaya being selected amongst 11 female blue ribbon winners. A Suri female grand champion was also selected.

The overall grand champion between the male and female Huacaya champions was selected followed by the overall grand champion between the male and female Suri champions.

During all of this, there were other activities in progress that included a fleece competition, skein and fiber arts competition, a silent auction, raffle entries, and vendors selling alpaca products.

For the raffle entries, the prizes included an alpaca lamp, alpaca feed, hand-knitted alpaca sweaters, apple pies, and a power parachute ride, just to name a few. I really like apple pies and found myself entering tickets for those pies. Needless to say when the tickets were drawn on Sunday, I won the pies. I also saw that there were no tickets entered yet on that Saturday for the power parachute ride. The photograph showed a picture of what looked to be a go-cart with a parachute flying at least 100 feet in the air. Joe Fenstermacher was offering the prize, or ‘thrill ride.’ After much ballyhooed advertising over the loudspeaker (by Joe himself), Marcia and I both dropped in a few tickets. As it turns out, anyone entering tickets into the power parachute ride was an automatic winner. Now I just need to get enough nerve to call the Fenstermachers to redeem my prize.

By the end of the show, I had learned much about being a ring steward. Though I was never provided the opportunity to scoop beans (as the alpacas ‘held it’ while in the ring), I improved my judgment of the quality fleece characteristics and conformation that impress an alpaca judge. The show also provided a great opportunity to reconnect with SAFONA members and non-SAFONA members including meeting new alpaca owners.

I would like to thank all the coordinators, exhibitors, and vendors, especially Naomi and Joe for making it such a success.

Ron Rissel
Perkiomen Creek Ranch