- Associated Press - Sunday, July 31, 2016

GOSHEN, Ind. (AP) - Growing up in neighborhoods instead of farms doesn’t stop kids at the Elkhart County 4-H Fair from participating in shows or contests.

For Mallory Fletcher, it was her interest in llamas that brought her to the 4-H Loveable Llama Club when she was 9. Fletcher, now 18, journeyed to a llama farm and witnessed a llama giving birth.

“It was amazing,” she said. “It’s not every day you get to see a llama.”

She was astonished at how close the farm was to her Bristol home, yet that was the first she had heard about it. From the farm she learned about the club and said she was at the first meeting the next year.

This year, Fletcher is the president of the club.

Halee Fisher’s family pastures horses but has never been involved in agriculture. Just like Fletcher, the 15-year-old Millersburg native was able to lease a llama for the year to show at 4-H.

“I heard about the lease at a farm only 15 miles away from my house,” Fisher said. “I did it next year and totally fell in love with it.”

What drew the two to show llamas rather than “traditional” agriculture animals such as pigs or cows were the llamas’ personalities and temperament.

The South American pack animals are characteristically social and friendly toward humans. Their wool is hypoallergenic.

“They’re easy to train, smart and fun animals to be around while training,” Fisher said.

The Loveable Llama Club members compete in the showmanship, obstacle and costume classes at the fair.

If there’s a downside to leasing the llamas, though, is the members can’t have the same animal for two years. Since the members do not own the llamas, they switch them out every two years to keep the competition fair.

The toughest part of the two-year “lease” is saying goodbye to their wooly friends.

“The last day of the fair is the hardest,” Fletcher said. “Most kids stay till after dark with their llamas. You can hear the sniffles and you know what’s going on.”


Source: The Elkhart Truth, https://bit.ly/2agYh36


Information from: The Elkhart Truth, https://www.elkharttruth.com

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