Serving the Southern Illinois University community since 1916.

The Daily Egyptian

Serving the Southern Illinois University community since 1916.

The Daily Egyptian

Serving the Southern Illinois University community since 1916.

The Daily Egyptian

The Wham Education Building on SIUs campus.
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Have a wild and wooly weekend at annual Alpaca Farm Days 

Several+alpacas+hang+out+near+the+fence+at+Rolling+Oak+Alpaca+Ranch+September%2C+8+2023+in+Makanda%2C+Ill.+
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Several alpacas hang out near the fence at Rolling Oak Alpaca Ranch September, 8 2023 in Makanda, Ill.

Rolling Oak Alpaca Ranch in Makanda, Illinois, is hosting National Alpaca Farm Days on Sept. 23 and 24. The ranch is owned by the mother-daughter duo, Judy Hoepker and Morgan Stevenson, who have organized the event to gather more attention about alpacas and the products they help to produce.

It is also a chance for the community to enjoy the company of these alpacas for the day.

“The event is actually a national event, by the Alpaca Owners Association. So, it’s kind of their thing where they encourage alpaca farms to open up,” Stevenson said.

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Their ranch is just one member of the Alpaca Owners Association, whose primary goal is to promote awareness of alpacas and alpaca products. Promoting farms with alpacas through this event has allowed businesses to gain success over the last 17 years. Around 125 different farms throughout the entire United States will be choosing to participate this year.

Rolling Oak will also be collaborating with other local businesses in the area for the event, giving them the opportunity to share knowledge and resources.

“Every year, we make it bigger,” Stevenson said. “This year, we have Melissa’s Place, the food truck, coming. We have… the rope-makers guild here, and we’re going to have a free activity for kids to make their own rope at that time. This will be a lot of fun!”

The main attraction, of course, is the alpacas.

“The farm is open for free. The farm runs long ways, and we have a beautiful alley that goes back through the pastures that people will be able to walk, and we will have feed cups for sale, so they can feed the alpacas. They’ll be in with the alpacas; pet them; take pictures with them. And then our shop is open here as well,” Stevenson said.

In their shop, the owners sell items such as socks, dryer balls and braided bracelets. These items are all made with yarn spun from their own alpaca wool.

“14 years ago, I learned how to crochet. And I immediately wanted softer yarn. So, I just researched and found everything about alpacas…” Stevenson said. “2011, we got our first three alpacas, and I convinced my mom to let me bring alpacas here, since this was her land, right? We got three and now we have 20.”

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The weekend event has many activities that crafty people in the area will happily enjoy, the largest being a chance to watch a fiber arts demonstration. Stevenson highly recommends this event to families, as there are plenty of activities for children to participate in as well. These include a possible interactive opportunity with the loom, felting, stuffing ornament balls, and coloring pages.

In the past, SIU’s pre-vet club has been able to work alongside Rolling Oak and participate in some of their events to gain experience and be able to work with live animals with a nearby business. Members have helped with Farm Days in the past and the ranch’s Christmas event, which spans over three weekends.

“They come and help out, just volunteering at any of the stations we need help at. Maybe they’re selling feed cups. Maybe they’re helping with crafts that could be in the back just watching to make sure no kids run up behind the alpaca,” Stevenson said. “They would help us with shearing too. We shear every spring. They have been a big help with that.”

The club focuses on students who are interested in learning more about the field of veterinary medicine, or who are interested in learning more about animals, so this gives them the opportunity to help out in the community during the school year.

By having events like Farm Days and inviting SIU students to aid them at the ranch, Rolling Oak draws the community together.

Farm Days run from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on both Saturday, Sept. 23 and Sunday, Sept. 24.

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