Your children have probably encountered cows, horses, and maybe even sheep … but have they ever touched an alpaca?
The “A Stroka Gene-us Alpacas” annual festival is almost here, and what a great way to introduce your child to a unique and weirdly adorable-to-look-at animal!
This wholly unique fest includes arts, crafts, food, petting of angora goats, dulcimer music, a long-haired Scottish cow named Scotty, and, of course, the stars of the show–the alpacas–most of whom have large, soft brown eyes and come with registration papers.
Mary Ann Stroka welcomes visitors to the farm.
“We want everyone to fall in love with alpacas,” Stroka, said. “They are such beautiful, calming animals.”
The small family farm she runs with her husband, Terry, has over 50 alpacas.
“Alpaca fiber is three times warmer and ten times softer than wool, and comes in a wide variety of fantastic natural colors,” she said, explaining there are 22 different shades.
Each animal has a name associated with a color.
“Yes, we make a lot of plays on words,” Stroka said. “For example, one of our alpacas is named Vanna. We call her color ‘Astroka Vanila Cream.’ Wally’s hair is ‘Astroka Black Walnut’ because it’s the color of black walnuts.”
“Children love to see the animals, and we let them feed them,” she added.
The festival features 40 vendors, including unique arts and crafts booths displaying wares requiring old-world skills. Demonstrations show how alpaca hair is turned into yarn on a spinning wheel. The festival is intended to help people learn about alpacas, have some fun, and remember the benefits and enjoyment of personally spinning yarn, knitting, crocheting and weaving their own clothes.
Stroka said the therapeutic benefits of alpacas abound. Therapeutic?
“Alpacas have a tremendous calming influence on children, and are often trained so they can be taken to nursing homes,” Stroka said.
“They make a sound like a hum–‘hummmmm’–and when they do that, you can feel the stress drain right out of you,” she said. “These animals are also huge, and very ‘reflective’–you just see yourself in them. They also have really long eyelashes; they are just really cool.”
When you’re at the festival, you can ask the Strokas about the qualities of alpaca fiber, which is ideal for children and adults who are sensitive to other fibers; she said it’s warm, hypoallergenic, lightweight and contains no lanolin.
Normally, there is a charge for private tours of the farm (groups of ten), and Stroka teaches spinning and weaving classes. Once a year, however, they open the place up to everyone for free.
Demonstrations will lead visitors through the entire process: tumbling out dirt from the wool, skirting it (taking out pieces of hay), turning the fibers to get them straight, and then using a spinning wheel to turn it into yarn.
So put on your comfy clothes and come enjoy the music, vendors and food. You can also sit a while on the back porch while the spinners spin and the kids enjoy the farm animals.
The festival takes place November 19 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at A Stroka Gene-Us Alpacas, 383 County Road 155, Stringer, Mississippi, about 20 minutes northwest of Laurel. For more information, call (716) 863-4366 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Elizabeth Phelps was raised on the Gulf Coast. She is a writer, speaker, teacher, and youth program facilitator. She has won awards for writing and inspirational youth programming using the arts.