OCEAN — This is no yarn. There is an alpaca farm in Carteret County, and area residents were able to discover its unique beauty Saturday and Sunday.
From petting and feeding alpacas carrots to watching their fleece spun into yarn, families enjoyed visits to Alpacas of the Crystal Coast during Alpaca Farm Days.
Owners Lou Ann and Dave Sekely opened their farm, which cares for 18 alpacas, for the public to enjoy.
“We just want people to see how pretty they are and how natural they are,” Ms. Sekely said Saturday. “I think people are wanting to get back to more natural things.”
The event was also a fundraiser for two popular animal welfare groups. Saturday, the County Humane Society near Newport, and volunteers had a booth to show off shelter dogs up for adoption and accept donations. Misplaced Mutts had its representatives and adoptable animals welcoming guests Sunday.
There were games and arts and crafts for children and live demonstrations of prepping and spinning alpaca fiber. Many simply enjoyed the comical beauty of the fluffy camelids known for their thick coats, which are used to make socks, gloves and hats.
Children were able to create paper alpaca puppets from real alpaca fur shaved from the Sekelys’ pets.
Ms. Sekely sells alpaca products from a small store at her home as well as at various farmers’ markets. Products range from fabric balls that can be tossed in with drying laundry, to hats and socks created from alpaca yarn.
Those visiting the farm Saturday said they enjoyed spending the day with beloved animals that sport names like Luce and Tequila.
“We live in the neighborhood and see the alpacas from a distance but this is the first time we’ve visited the farm,” Lynn Kraynik of Ocean said.
Her son Patrick, 11, also said he enjoyed spending time with the gentle creatures.
“It’s fun and I like animals,” he said.
Marcos Torres of Newport, originally from Peru, said he was excited to find out there was an alpaca farm in the area.
“I didn’t know we had alpacas here and I wanted to come and see them,” Mr. Torres said.
An alpaca is a domesticated species of South American camelid, and are normally found on the high plateaus of the Andes Mountains in Peru, Bolivia and Chili.
It resembles a small llama in appearance. There are two breeds of alpaca: the Suri, which has a shiny, curly coat; and Huacaya, which has long, soft fur like a Teddy bear. The Sekelys own the Huacaya type.
While Ms. Sekely does her own dying of white fleece, she also owns alpacas that have coats with various colors, from black and dark brown to a light beige or reddish tint.
A shearer comes each spring from New Zealand to sheer their alpacas. She sends much of her darker fleece to New England for processing, where they also make hats, socks, shoes and other products. She prefers to keep the white fleece to dye and create her own products.
Fleece is labeled in one of three categories, depending on the quality. Prime is considered the softest, with thirds the coarsest. Seconds are a mixture of both.
Because alpacas are accustomed to high altitudes and cooler weather, they’ve had to adapt to warmer climates such as those found in Carteret County. The Sekelys keep careful watch on their herd and use fans to help keep them cool.
Their herd consists of 11 females and seven males.
Alpacas are considerably smaller than llamas, and unlike llamas, they were not bred to be beasts of burden, but were bred specifically for their fiber. They are social animals and cluster in herds.
Contact Cheryl Burke at 252-726-7081, ext. 255; email Cheryl@thenewstimes.com; or follow on Twitter @cherylccnt.