Annual Lamafest at MSU provides a weekend of fun for all ages

Jack Moreland, Associate Editor

Lamafest is a popular llama show and competition that brings in many of these gentle mammals and their owners from around Michigan and the entire midwest. It took place at the MSU Pavilion August 31 through September 2.

“We got a large group from Indiana, Ohio [and] somebody from Wisconsin,” Don Topliff, the superintendent of Lamafest, said. Traveling llama owners keep their animals in pens at the pavilion while many camp out nearby in campers, RVs or even tents while waiting for their competition or show day.

Competitors train or groom their llamas for one of three types of competitions: showmanship, performance or halter. Showmanship evaluates how well the handler leads their animal, while halter focuses on topics such as grooming and hygiene. Performance consists of handlers leading their companions through obstacle courses in order to show off their mobility.

As a species, llamas have a lot of variation.

“They come in all different colors; All different fleece types,” owner and handler Barb Parsons said. They are divided and judged by fleece type as well as age.
Along with competitions, many local wool vendors and llama aficionados come to be around other people interested in farm animals and their products.

“I’m a llama fan … I just think this is really cool. It gives everybody a chance to get their hands on a llama,” Esther Brummet, a Lamafest enthusiast, said.

There is a strong 4-H presence at Lamafest as well, promoting youth farming.

“[Lamafest]’s really great for kids, too. [It] kind of piques their interest in farm animals if this is something they want to go into,” spectator Lindsay Stephen said.
While animals like dogs and cats sniff hands to get to know you, llamas prefer to sniff heads. They are very curious, but usually friendly animals. “[They’re] like 6-foot, 400 pound cats,” owner Brian Greaves said. A head sniffing from a llama, while being a unique experience to say the least, is a fair price to pay to be able to pet their incredibly soft wool.

If you’re interested in admiring these camelid, wool products or getting your head sniffed, look for Lamafest’s return to MSU next year. This herd of goofy animals is quite a sight to see.

As Parsons said, “They’re smart and intelligent. They’re beautiful, I don’t know how you could say it any other way.”