By RYAN SILVOLA
BELOIT — Known for being stronger, lighter and more resilient than wool, alpaca fiber often is compared to fabrics like cashmere for being so soft.
So says Dennis Pace, who operates Pacesetter Alpacas Farm with his wife Christy. Alpaca fiber also has all of the properties of wool, he says: it resists moisture, insulates when it’s wet and dries fast.
Alpacas are members of the camelid family and are often confused with llamas, when actually llamas are about twice the size of an alpaca and are used for packing or for guarding herds of sheep or alpacas.
“When we first started this business 22 years ago, nobody even knew what an alpaca was,” Dennis Pace said.
Pacesetter Alpacas Farm, 5546 W. Plymouth Church Road, will be hosting the 2017 Alpaca Farm Days from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sept. 23 and from noon to 4 p.m. on Sept. 24. Christy Pace said Alpaca Farm Days is a fundraiser that also serves to educate the public on the process of turning the fiber into fleece, yarn and other apparel material.
The event has free admission, but portions of any proceeds made will be donated to the Rock County chapter of Friends of Noah, an animal rescue group. Donations also will be accepted.
Christy Pace said the family has been staging the event for about 10 years, with almost 600 people attending every year.
“The interest is there,” Christy Pace said. “People enjoy coming out, spending the day on the farm and seeing the animals.”
Dennis Pace said Pacesetter Alpaca Farm will be joining alpaca producers across the nation opening their gates to the public that weekend. At Pacesetter there will be food, face painting, demonstrations and activities for the children such as making nesting balls for birds out of alpaca fiber.
During the event, attendees can learn about skirting the alpaca fiber as well as carding and spinning it. There will even be opportunities for the public to try their hand at spinning the fiber.
“Not very many people spin anymore, so it’s kind of fun art to see and see them turn the fiber into yarn,” Christy Pace said.
Alpaca fiber is used for hats, scarves, gloves, mittens and rugs and also is considered hypoallergenic. Attendees can also visit the farm to see and purchase products made using the alpaca fiber.
The Paces got into the alpaca business because it’s a no-kill industry. They started with two animals and are now up to 38 alpacas that can live 15-25 years.
According to the Alpaca Owners & Breeders Association, alpacas originated from South America with two breed types: hucaya and suri. Huacayas account for 90 percent of all alpacas and have a fluffy, crimpy fleece, whereas suris have a silky fleece that forms pencil locks.
For more information, visit pacesetteralpacas.com.