Inside the Barns at the Richland County Fair

From Richland Source
By Brittany Schock

MANSFIELD, Ohio – Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither was the Richland County Fair. Guests may wander through the barns looking at the cute animals, but few are aware of the hard work put forth by junior fair members weeks and even months in advance.

For 15-year-old Laurasen Combs, her fair project began with the birth of her alpaca – and it was hard work from the very beginning.

“I really like the challenge, so I picked her because she was the hardest one to work with out of the whole herd,” said Combs. “She was the baby no one could catch and was the most ornery.”

Combs’ risk paid off, she won first place in obstacles and second in showmanship with her alpaca. She explained showmanship is judged on how well handler and animal work as a team, but obstacles are all about trust as the animal is led through various structures designed to simulate being out on the trail.

Laurasen Combs at the Richland County Fair

15-year-old Laurasen Combs won first place in obstacles and second place in showmanship with her alpaca at the Richland County Fair on Wednesday. Brittany Schock, Staff Reporter

“I only ran through obstacles with her twice, but we worked on trust a lot,” said Combs. “I sat in the pasture and her on a long lead, and I’d pull her close to me and let her go. That was she doesn’t associate me with work and not having fun, and having to constantly do what she’s not used to.”

While the awards are an added bonus, Combs noted her favorite part about the fair is ultimately the people.

“I like meeting new friends, seeing all my old friends and seeing how hard everybody worked on their projects,” she said.

Working with a smaller animal at the Richland County Fair this week is 15-year-old Macy Eicher of the Lucas Leaders II 4-H club. Eicher was preparing to show her rabbit on Wednesday, and she noted judges are mostly looking for meat on a rabbit.

“They flip your rabbit and they see what the meat looks like, their fur and their feet,” she said.

While there isn’t much she could do to improve the meat on her rabbit, Eicher said she learned to feed her rabbit sunflower seeds to help with their fur quality.

“I like learning what you can learn from the fair and from the rabbits,” she said.

Across the fairgrounds in the pony barn, 11-year-old Chase Davenport from Sandusky County said he’d only practiced working with his pony Penelope about a week before the Richland County Fair. But his aunt, Jessica Garcia, was quick to counter Davenport’s dedication.

“He’s been driving carts since age five – he’s always loved to do it,” said Garcia.

Garcia explained Davenport has been working with Penelope for a long time in preparation for a few other fairs, but only started preparing for the Richland County Fair last week. Davenport’s bond with Penelope was evident on Wednesday when he won first place in the 9-12 age group of the Junior Draft Horse Halter/Showmanship competition.

“We show halter by walking them in, setting them up and making sure their front and back feet are together,” said Davenport. “You walk in front of the judge and follow their directions, they look at you and then you go back in line.”

Davenport said he prepared Penelope for showing by braiding her tail, combing her mane and cleaning her feet. Garcia added the entire family camps out at the fair throughout the week, and it’s hard to keep Davenport out of the barn.

“It’s a fun family experience – we spend lots of time together,” she said.

Read the original here.

This Must Be A First: Alpacas Blessed In Nation’s Capital

Here’s something you don’t see every day in Washington, D.C.

Standing just a couple of blocks from the U.S. Capitol, a group of Peruvian highlanders, draped in handwoven cloths and ponchos in all the colors of the rainbow, pray to Mother Earth, to the mountains, to the spirit of their ancestors. They offer wine, incense and flowers.
Their wish is that their alpaca “cover the earth like the grains of sand by the ocean.”

Blessing of the Alpacas - Alpaca News

Alpacas, in case you don’t know, are llama-like animals in the camel family. Their wool — called fiber — is prized for its softness and warmth. It’s woven into textiles and garments. So the more alpacas, the better. That’s why Peruvians hold a traditional blessing ceremony, performed since before Columbus discovered the New World and re-created at the national mall last Friday for the annual Smithsonian Folklife Festival.

The Peruvians kneel in front of the alpacas’ pen to prepare their offering. Behind them, six alpacas, on loan from Sugarloaf Alpacas in Maryland, stand nervously. It’s apparent they’ve never been blessed before.
A weaver named Timoteo, from the village of Chinchero, leads the ceremony. As he speaks, a translator echoes his words.

“Lightning storms, please, I supplicate you with this offering. Please be gentle with us, support us and allow our animals to be fruitful and multiply, don’t be harsh.”

Before the ceremony began, I spoke with Nilda Callañaupa Alvarez, a traditional weaver. Callañaupa is a cofounder of the Centro de Textiles Tradicionales del Cusco, a nonprofit formed to preserve the art of weaving. As we talk, her hands never stop moving as she spins alpaca fiber into yarn.

The alpaca ceremony, Callañaupa explains, takes place once a year during their rainy season, which in Peru lasts from November through April. The people ask Mother Earth — Pachamama in the Quechua language — and the spirits to look out for their animals.

“Spirit of our ancestors, angels that protect us, please take care of us. We offer to you this blessing.”

Alpacas are native to South America, where they are sometimes raised for meat (which is low in calories, fat, and cholesterol) but are primarily prized for their fleece, which grows naturally in over twenty colors. Alpaca fiber is not only soft, Callañaupa says, but warmer and finer than sheep’s wool.

Ann Rowe, a researcher at the George Washington University Museum and Textile Museum in D.C., says these attractive properties of alpaca fiber are due to its structure. “Alpaca is softer than wool because [the shaft of each fiber] has fewer surface scales,” she says. “It is warmer because many of the fibers have a hollow core.”

It also costs more than wool, Callañaupa says, an advantage for the farmer. Peru is reportedly home to 3.6 million alpacas — that’s most of the world’s population and produces 80 percent of the world’s alpaca fleece. Those exports, however, are managed by large fiber mills.

“The export industry is an entirely different thing than local use of alpacas” for textiles, says Rowe.

“Let the alpaca be as strong as can be because their bones are like steel. The mountains should run with alpacas like grains of sand, and their caretakers should be so overjoyed that their eyes run with tears.”

It’s a long road from animal to textile. It starts, Callañaupa says, with shearing the animals, which is done every year or two (in warmer climates, annual shearing is more common).

Next, the fiber is spun by hand into yarn on a traditional drop spindle — a wooden spike that is weighted at one end. The spinner fixes the fiber to the spike, then pulls and twists the fiber while holding the spindle between the legs. When the twisted fiber reaches a certain length, the spindle is dropped toward the floor, and its weight makes it rotate, twisting it into yarn.

The finished yarn is washed and can be dyed. The Cusco weavers use natural dyes made from leaves, flowers and insects.

When the yarn is ready, artisans use a Backstrap Loom to weave bright, intricate textiles. Each community, Callañaupa explains, has its own designs and style of weaving. “It’s part of our identity,” she says.

“Let there be a great abundance of alpacas, so that the alpacas should be like the condor and appear to fly from one mountain to another, and let them come in all the beautiful colors.”

People sell their woven textiles. If they have a lot of alpaca, they’ll sell the actual fiber as well. Callañaupa says that in many of these villages, raising alpaca is the basis for the economy. “In high altitudes where the alpacas are kept, there is not agriculture,” she says. “So all the food will come through [sale of the] fiber.”

Is it enough to make a living?

She doesn’t look up from the creamy, pale fiber she is spinning into soft yarn. “Most people, that pays for living,” she says. “The food, the education. No savings.”

When the ceremony is over, necklaces of carnations and woven tassels are hung around each alpaca’s neck to show it has been blessed. In Peru, the end of the ceremony marks the beginning of a festival, so right there on the National Mall, to the beat of drums and the whistle of flutes, the Peruvians dance their thanks to Mother Earth.

Back in their pen, the blessed alpacas pace, perhaps not yet aware of their good fortune.

From NPR
By Jessie Rack

Read the original here.



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