National Alpaca Farm Days event attracts hundreds ready for selfies, alpaca ‘kisses’
FORT CALHOUN, Neb. — Four-year-old Rainey Daugherty has a thing for llamas.
But on Saturday, she was squealing with excitement over what looks like a distant cousin: alpacas.
“We don’t know the difference,” said Rainey’s mom, Sarah Daugherty, with a smile and a wink.
“They’re cute,” said Rainey, who donned a pink and silver princess crown.
Temperatures in the upper 40s and drizzle didn’t stop the Daughertys, who are from Omaha, or hundreds of other families from enjoying Alpacas of the Heartland, an alpaca ranch a few miles northwest of Fort Calhoun.
The farm, run by Sheri and Mike Jacoby, hosted their annual free open house in conjunction with National Alpaca Farm Days. The event continues Sunday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at 7016 County Road 39 in Fort Calhoun.
The Jacobys have 38 alpacas. Several are just a month old. The alpacas have fun names, like Oreo Dreams, Spice Girl, Ima Snowflake, Sassy Girl, Amaretto Way and Mr. Blazen Hot.
What’s so great about them?
“They’re very friendly,” Sheri Jacoby said. “Some people get them as good pets.”
Otherwise, alpacas are sheared. Their fiber is softer than sheep’s wool and can be used to make socks, shawls and sweaters.
Margaret Schaefer of Fort Calhoun said she loves to spin alpaca fiber into yarn, as well as knit and weave it. Schaefer and her friends, Ashley Crosman of Omaha and Helen Lindley of North Platte, bought bags of alpaca fleece from the farm’s boutique on Saturday to do just that.
“Soft and lovely,” Schaefer said of the fiber.
Mike Jacoby estimated that 800 people had stopped by the farm before noon on Saturday. About 30 volunteers helped visitors interact with the animals.
People took selfies and got alpaca “kisses” by placing carrots between their teeth. Jacoby said workers cut up 300 pounds of carrots in preparation for the weekend. That job takes a couple of people all day to complete, he said.
Melissa Swan, a volunteer from Papillion, said her work at the farm has inspired her to own alpacas someday.
“Mike and Sheri are so knowledgeable,” she said. “They just want responsible, good alpaca owners out there.”
The farm is not handicapped-accessible. People interested in visiting on Sunday are encouraged to wear good walking shoes.