When asked how many attendees came to this year’s Southern Select Alpaca Show, Karl Heinrich, president of the Southeastern Alpaca Association (SeAA), half-jokingly answered: “Alpacas or people?” While the exact number of two-legged attendees was hard to come by, Sevierville Convention Center Director David Bobo said the alpaca show has been a hit with the public in the two years the center has hosted it. “The alpaca breeders do a fantastic job of interacting with the attendees,” he said, “educating everyone about this unique animal breed.”
Raising awareness of alpacas is a primary goal of the show, which offers complimentary demonstrations and learning stations, including a fiber-arts class and a fiber spinners/project circle, where attendees were encouraged to bring their knitting and crochet needles to give alpaca fleece a whirl. But the show’s strongest draw for alpaca breeders is that it offers a forum for them to meet. “A lot of networking goes on here,” Heinrich said.
Like nearly every other industry, the alpaca market “took a hit” during the recession, Heinrich said, and is now coming back around. Last year was SeAA’s biggest show in its history, and this year’s was even more crowded. SeAA replicated the features that made the show successful in 2013, devoting additional space for fiber-arts education and a special learning area for kids. Other events included a photo contest, the Hand-Crafter’s Spin-Off, Halter and Fleece shows, and the Herd Sire Breedings Live Auction.
Southern Select is one of many regional alpaca shows taking place year-round. In fact, Heinrich said, “There’s probably an alpaca show every weekend somewhere in the U.S.”
13th Annual Southern Select Alpaca Show
March 1-2, 2014
Sevierville Convention Center
Attendees: Several hundred
Exhibitors: 100 alpaca farms and 20 vendors selling alpaca products, including yarn and clothing.
Face to Face: Cousins to llamas and camels, alpacas were domesticated in South America thousands of years ago, and are prized for their luxury fleece. Warmer than wool and as soft as cashmere, the fleece is used to make sweaters, blankets, socks, and all manner of crafts – many of which were on display at the Southern Select Alpaca Show. Mostly, though, the show allows the public to “get up close” with alpacas, according to the website for show organizer, the Southeastern Alpaca Association.