Last week was busy and completely full of 4H fair activities for the Northwestern Michigan Fair in Traverse City. It was our first year at the fair, and I can safely say, it will not be the last. Everyone had a great time. Even the alpacas.
The Northwestern Michigan Fair officially began in 1908. While the fair has a rich history and has seen many changes over the years, the sole purpose of the Northwestern Michigan Fair has not changed from what it was in 1908. The fair and activities are designed to promote Michigan agriculture, education, stock raising and dairy products, as well as, domestic science and kindred interests throughout the Grand Traverse Region.
The fair includes a full set of rides, games, and food vendors, although the main attraction is the 4H animals and children that come to compete. It’s the celebration of the area 4H youth that is the heart and soul of the fair.
Thankfully, I was able to see this first hand with my son and his participation with our alpacas Dolly and Adel.
We were all a little nervous about taking Adel and Dolly to the fair. Okay to be totally truthful, Hunter was semi worried and I was extremely worried. I didn’t know how the girls would react and I felt as though I was sending my children off to summer camp. In the end, I didn’t have to worry at all. Dolly and Adel did great!
Hunter competed in the showmanship and also took Adel through the alpaca obstacle course. I was brought into the show ring to help Hunter manage both Dolly and Adel for the judges. I didn’t find out about this until minutes before the show started and I was a tad unprepared for my part in the show. This completely shows when you look through our pictures. Hunter was extremely confident with Adel and I was a hot mess with Dolly. Dolly could sense this and was not as calm as Adel. This was entirely my fault and not Dolly’s.
Overall it was a great week. We shared the barn with lots of llamas, alpaca, and goat friends, we learned how to spin alpaca fiber into yarn, and we were able to educate the general public about alpacas, their role in the US, and what makes us love them as much as we do. We also answered a lot of questions about alpaca vs. llama, do alpacas spit, and can I have an alpaca as a pet.
Adel and Dolly would great visitors and make rounds through the fair and campgrounds to say hello and meet new friends. Selfies were plentiful and hugs with Adel were commonplace. Most people didn’t realize that alpacas can be as friendly as a dog or a cat and they make superb pets as well as livestock.
It was a busy week and well worth it. Hunter was ear to ear smiles all week long and grew closer to Adel and Dolly with each passing day.
I took away a new appreciation for the 4H, a love for the 4H community, and a new respect for those young children who send their beloved animals off to market in exchange for college money. That last one is a tear producer, but the lesson it sets is a hard one, but an invaluable one. The kids are taught to love and care for their animals, respect them and their purpose, while also understanding the circle of life and the value of money.
My sincere gratitude goes out the businesses and families of Grand Traverse county who come to market day and paid well over market rates to purchase cows, pigs, sheep, and lambs. Their donations make up the bulk of college funds for many farming kids in this area and their generosity produces life long lessons for the 4H participants.
While Hunter didn’t send an animal to market, he did learn a lot and he grew through the experience. I could see this as I watched him in the show ring or patiently talking to small children about the alpaca industry. It was also very evident when countless strangers approached me to tell me how kind, genuine, and loving he was to his alpacas and their children.
All in all, you couldn’t ask for more as a parent. My son had a fun-filled week with friends and family, learned valuable life lessons, and spent lots of time with his best friend and alpaca Adel.