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Virginia Classic, March 13-14, 2004

Demelza acting up!
We had a lot of fun at the 10th Annual Virginia Classic Show in March 2004, although it was quite hard work at times! Our daughters both showed in showmanship and obstacle classes, in the junior and sub-junior age divisions, with our young alpacas Demelza and Ishbel. 

It was quite clear from the start that Demelza was a farm girl at heart, and while content to practice at home, wanted no part of the showring experience! During the showmanship class, she barely stood still during the entire performance, and gave our eldest daughter a real run for her money. She rose to the challenge of handling a very restless alpaca, and the judge commended her on how well she had managed the situation as he awarded her 4th place in a very competitive class, explaining that it was the skill of handler being judged, not the behavior of the alpaca!

The girls share a quieter moment

Ishbel in the ring at 6 months
Our younger daughter started showing in the sub-junior age division this year. Her alpaca, the 6 month old Ishbel, was much better behaved during their showmanship class than Demelza, despite only having been weaned from her mother the week before and separated from her for the first time in her life! At the end of the class, they were delighted to be awarded their first ever blue ribbon. 

Demelza went on to place 4th in a very competitive junior obstacle class, and 5th out of 7 in the mixed brown halter class. We were pleased with her halter result, as she is a medium brown out of two blacks, competing against animals from lighter color backgrounds. The judge, Tim Lavan, commented on her nice handle and crimp, but indicated her leg coverage was one of the reasons for her placement. Given that her legs were hosed down during the summer, so she only had 6 months growth, we had no complaints about that!

Our very first blue ribbon!

Misty winning Reserve Champion
On Sunday morning we showed Misty, whose majestic presence and overall quality earned her a blue ribbon and Reserve Championship in her very first showring appearance. Despite the fact that she was over 2 years of age, and competing with alpacas at least half her age, Misty was still judged to be the best of all the grey female alpacas at the show. She only lost the championship to a yearling multicolor female, as the classes were mixed! In awarding her the Reserve Championship, judge Tim Lavan commented on the softness of her fleece, her remarkable presence and stature, coverage and conformation. 

And yes, Misty is a large alpaca, weighing in at 200lbs, but she is not a giant - her handler is only 5 feet tall!

Misty showing off her ribbons.
MaPaca - Eastern Alpaca Jubilee, April 23-25, 2004
Harrisburg, PA - April 23-25, 2004. 13 ribbons out of 10 halter/fleece entries, including Champion & Reserve Champion fleece, Best Prepared Fleece and 4 blue ribbons, at "the largest alpaca event on the planet, ever"! In April at the 2004 Eastern Alpaca Jubilee, we actually broke our own show record.  Last year Thistledown won 8 ribbons out of 8 entries; this year, we were absolutely delighted to bring home 18 ribbons out of 18 entries, at "the largest alpaca event on the planet, ever"! There were over 1600 entries in this "sell out" show at the Pennsylvania Farm Complex, with some of the toughest competition in the world. All 5 of the alpacas we took into the showring won ribbons in their halter / composite classes - a first (Logan), a second (Demelza), a third (Donovan) and two fifths (Misty and Ishbel). We also entered 5 fleeces and won 8 ribbons - one Champion (Brianna yearling), one Reserve Champion (Caterina), three blues (Brianna, Caterina and Aurora), one red (Brianna juvenile), and a sixth (Shannon - staple too short to show really!), plus a purple ribbon for "Best Prepared Fleece in Show". 
Logan, MaPaca 2003

"Chicago Girls" waiting to enter the ring..
It was like Christmas when we went to pick up the fleeces, and so unexpected, as there were 200 entries and this is only the second year we have entered the fleece show. The grey and multi-color classes were combined into one "mixed" championship class, and our girls cleaned up, taking both Champion and Reserve Champion, over entries from some of the largest and most prestigious breeders in the country! Winning the "Best Prepared Fleece in Show" award was also a great honor. 

Our two daughters both showed in showmanship, obstacle, public relations and costume classes, earning 5 performance ribbons between them in eight classes (two seconds and three thirds) and had a really enjoyable and worthwhile weekend. 

The girls place third in a wonderfully imaginative and challenging costume class.

Logan and his talented handler!
Our eldest daughter's crowning achievement was when she took part in adult competition for the first time, to show one of our two half brothers in the juvenile composite class, and won the blue ribbon! Her little Logan was the only black alpaca in the class, only a matter of days over the 6 month minimum age limit to show, and had not long been weaned and halter-trained. They made a great team in the showring, and I can never show my face on the show circuit again after being beaten into third place by my own daughter on her first time out... 

We plan to exhibit again at MaPaca 2005 to try and improve upon this year's performance - here's hoping! 

Showing off all the ribbons at the end of an exciting show!
Maryland Sheep & Wool Festival, May 1-2, 2004

Jill Wolpert, spinning in The Wool Merchant booth
Early in 2003 we started raising french angora rabbits, to blend their fiber with our alpaca fiber to produce luxury rovings and yarn. Later that year, we got together with Jill Wolpert of the Wool Merchant, who has been raising colored french angora rabbits for over a decade, breeding specifically for rare color, quality fiber and great temperament. Her award winning stock are recognised as some of the best in the country, winning Best of Variety and Best Colored Wool at the 2000 ARBA Convention, among many other awards. All of Jill's rabbits, and many of their offspring, now live here at Thistledown, and we continue to breed to her high standards, with the benefit of her valued advice on genetics. Fiber colors include harlequin, tricolor, chocolate, blue, opal, squirrel, lynx, black, agouti and more. Jill, and her fellow breeder Sue Goodberlet, joined us at the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival in May, where we sold raw angora and alpaca fiber, pindrafted blended rovings (merino, alpaca and angora), luxurious yarns (alpaca/angora blends and 100% alpaca), felt batting for crafts and show quality french angora rabbits. We'll be back again next year, May 7-8, 2005, and look forward to seeing you there! 
Porter, french angora
Virginia State Fair Alpaca Show, September 23, 2004

Kinross, Logan and Sue
Not a bad showing at the VA State Fair in September 2004! We took along 4 alpacas - Kinross shown by his new owner Sue, and Logan, Ishbel and Bronwen from the Thistledown pastures. Kinross, Bronwen and Logan all won blue ribbons in their classes, and Ishbel brought home a red ribbon. This is the first time there has been an alpaca show at the VA State Fair, and after seeing the strong support this year, we all hope this will become an annual event. Many thanks to all the pioneers who helped organize and support this show - see you again same time, same place next year!
Ishbel, Bronwen and Jane
Virginia State Fair Exhibition, September 25 & October 3, 2004

Alpacas could be seen every day of the 2004 VA State Fair at the alpaca exhibit in Young MacDonald's Barn - another first for the Fair, and another tradition we hope will continue for many years to come. Thistledown took part in this wonderful event on Saturday 25, September, and on Sunday 3, October, from 10.00 a.m. until 10.00 p.m. We met thousands of fairgoers, many of whom had never seen an alpaca before, let alone touched one, had their picture taken together, or exchanged a kiss with these beautiful and gentle creatures! Both days were very busy and thoroughly enjoyable, and we hope to have the opportunity to share our alpacas with everyone at the Fair again next year.