Students showcase alpacas at upcoming Warren County Fair

Duncan MacKenzie | Staff Writer

This summer, some students are “alpaca”ing their bags and heading to the fair.

The Warren County Fair takes place July 17-22 at the Warren County Fairgrounds. Every year, students ranging from kindergarten to high school flock to the Warren County Junior Fair, a portion of the fair organized by the educational youth development program 4-H. Some of the fair’s biggest attractions include the tractor pull, drag racing, rodeo, and demolition derby, but the event that students can partake in is the livestock show.

Contestants can choose to show poultry, rabbits, sheep, goats, hogs and many more species of livestock. Each competitor is judged in a series of events, including showmanship, obstacles, public relations, skillathon, costumes, and an interview.

Sophomore Colin Landers has been showing alpaca at the fair for seven years. He said that while the show is for the animals, the judges really focus on the talents of the handler.

“You walk in a circle and then you line up, and it’s judging you based upon how you show the animal,” Colin said. “It has nothing to do with the quality of the animal like professional alpaca shows are. It’s just how you handle yourself, how you control the animal, just kind of judging the trust you’ve built up with the animal.”

Colin said that because trust is everything in the show, he must work with the animals for months to acclimate them to their trainer.

“They are afraid of just about everything, so you have to start by building up,” Colin said. “We go pretty much every day in the summer working with them and building a bond. We practice with obstacles, just walking them around.”

Colin is a member of the Junior Fair Board with his sister, senior Nina Landers, and sophomore Jessica Honerlaw. The board is comprised of 50 high school students from the Warren County area who organize and plan all junior fair activities. Honerlaw said that her role on the board has helped her to become a better leader and person.

“Being in the junior fair board has given me a lot of leadership in the 4-H community,” Honerlaw said. “It is something that younger members look up to, so it’s a lot of responsibility. 4-H in general has been really helpful in me trying to figure out who I am. I gain a lot of public speaking skills and that’s where I have developed my love for animals.”

Honerlaw shows goats and rabbits at the fair. Just like Landers and his alpaca, she works hard to get the animals comfortable with her.

“We get goats around April, and they are born in January, so they have just been taken from their mother,” Honerlaw said. “They are usually very shy and scared, so you want them to get used to you. About the time school lets out, we start walking them because in the show ring you walk them around while the judge looks at them, so you need to start walking them now and getting that muscle built up because for market goats, that’s their meat quality.”

Nina said one of her favorite parts of the fair is that it makes her summers unique.

“(The best part of the Junior Fair is) just the experience of getting up early in the morning and driving out to the farm to take care of the alpacas in the summer,” Nina said. “Everyone else is going to Kings Island, and I’m heading to the farm.”