Fun fact: You don’t have to do Amigos or travel to Peru to meet an alpaca.
It turns out that once a year more than 400 alpacas and their owners converge onto the American Royal for the Midwest Alpaca Owners and Breeders Association (MOPACA) show. The MOPACA show is one part pedigree alpaca show and one part alpaca-themed fun.Last weekend, while my peers spent their Sunday morning sleeping in, taking communion at Mass or brunching at First Watch, I made the stressful journey through the Missouri highway system to start my week off with a healthy dose of alpaca.
It was fairly calm, only a handful of families and couples – not nearly as busy as it had seemed in the snapchats, but I figured that was to be expected for a Sunday morning. What I hadn’t expected was the strong smell of farm animals, however I stopped noticing once I had been inside for a few minutes.
In the center of the arena was the judging hub, where alpacas lined up with their owners to be judged on the quality of their fleece. Imagine a pedigree dog show, but replace the poodles and German shepherds with huacayas and suris. For those of you who aren’t alpaca aficionados, huacayas have short hair and are probably what you picture when you think of an alpaca, and suris have long, moppy hair.
On the outskirts of the judging squares were vendors selling sweaters, coloring books, soaps, keychains, and yarn made from alpaca fleece. But among the Peruvian-inspired textures and colors, the best by far were the stuffed animals. The 100% baby alpaca fur toys ranged from lions to tigers to alpacas (oh my!). If I was five, I would have given all the money in my ice cream truck fund to be able to bring one of the puppy-dog soft stuffed lions home with me. They were seriously amazing.
However, I’m 18, so I decided to make the “adult” choice and purchase a $5 alpaca dryer ball at a nearby stand instead. The fleece ball advertised itself as a natural, chemical-free replacement for dryer sheets and promised to dry my clothes 25 percent faster. Who knew alpaca fleece would be so useful to a future laundry-doing college student?
As I walked around the arena, I met several alpacas, each one cuter than the next, including one named Prince William, or as his friends call him, Bill. Being a lifelong pet-less child, I was overjoyed to be surrounded by animals waiting to be pet, and all of the owners were more than willing to give me and other alpaca tourists the opportunity. The only disappointing thing about my visit was that I hadn’t known about the MOPACA show years ago – and that I didn’t come home with a new pet alpaca.