It was standing room only Friday morning as spectators anticipated the open of the 4-H Llama and Alpaca Show held in the show arena at Effingham County Fairgrounds.
The show kicked off with a costume class competition as close to 20 llamas were dressed up along with their handlers.
According to event Superintendent JoAnn Ring, handlers are placed in three age groups, juniors ages 8 to 9-year-old, intermediate 10 to 12 and senior 13 to 18-year-old. Trish Purcell also serves as superintendent for the show.
Allison Whitacre of Ohio was judge for this year's contest. According to Whitacre, handlers are judged on several criteria in several classes to include costume, showmanship, obstacle course and public relations. She said this year only llamas were participating in the show.
Whitacre is no stranger to the Effingham County Fair.
She said she grew up in Effingham County and participated in 4-H showing llamas for six years.
Whitacre said the costume class competitors were judged on how desensitized the animals are to be handled and touched, how the animal tolerates the costume and how they behave in the ring.
“There is a lot of things they (llamas) are not normally seeing in their environment when they enter the ring,” Whitacre said.
Whitacre said in costume class she would also be looking for handlers perception of their animal and other animals in the ring. She said handlers would also be judged on how they are paying attention to how their animal is doing and that the animal is not getting too stressed out.
As participants passed in front of the judge the superintendent of the event, Ring read a story relating to their costume.
Annelise Donaldson of Dieterich was patiently standing close to llama Hope for her chance to enter the arena for the costume class contest. Donaldson was competing on Friday in the intermediate age group.
Next to Donaldson was Hannah Shelley with her llama, also competing in the intermediate class. Shelley said getting her llama ready for competition was really hard.
“I'm a little bit nervous,” Shelley said. “Remembering everything is the hardest part and keeping it (llama) calm.”
“Well, you've got to make sure your llama behaves,” Annelise Donaldson said. “And you have to make sure their costume doesn't fall off.”
Each age group took their turn parade their llama through the arena the senior group went first. Donaldson entered the arena when the intermediate group was called. She took her llama hope around the ring in hopes of taking home a first place ribbon.
All intermediate show participants lined-up in front of the crowd anticipating the judges decision. The winner and reserve winner (first and second place) would remain behind to compete in the best overall costume between all three age groups.
After the junior division finished their costume class competition, it was time for Allison Whitacre to choose who would be first and second place in the overall costume class. All six winners from the three age groups paraded their llamas one last time each stopping directly in front of the crowd.
It was decision time.
Donaldson took home top honors overall in the costume class.
Donaldson said she and her llama Hope have a close connection.
“Hope will be 12 in November,” Donaldson said. “And I'll be 12 in August,”
“We're birth buddies,” Donaldson added.
Charles Mills can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 217-347-7151 ext. 126.