The Douglas County Fair last week featured many typical animal-showing competitions: cows, goats, pigs —plus llamas.
The Douglas County 4-H Llama project consists of five classes where exhibitors lead their llamas around a show pen as a judge assesses the exhibitor’s relationship with their llama and the training they’ve done together. The classes include showmanship, obstacle, pack and public relations.
The Douglas County Llama project also includes a class that’s unusual — a costume competition.
The llamas and their exhibitors dress up in elaborate pair costumes. At the competition at the Douglas County Fair on July 31, four llamas and their exhibitors displayed their creative ideas.
“I love doing costume,” said Abby Brown, who competed at the fair with her llama.
The llama competition is so popular it even has its own Twitter account. Freelance journalist Amber Fraley live tweets the event each year for Lawrence Magazine.
Twelve-year-old Brown won the costume contest for the second year in a row with her llama, Dalai, who’s named after the Dalai Lama.
Brown and her llama live on a farm in Linwood, Kansas. Llamas are often used to protect other animals, so that’s what Brown says Dalai does on her farm — he helps protect the cattle, chickens and pigs from coyotes.
At this year’s competition, Brown and Dalai dressed as Mario Kart characters, Mario and Luigi, for the costume competition.
Brown made the costumes out of cardboard boxes that she and her mom painted red and green. They also made tires on the side of the boxes that are made of small plates.
Last year, Brown dressed as Tina the Llama and Dalai dressed as Napoleon Dynamite — he even wore a “Vote for Pedro” t-shirt, a curly wig and big glasses.
Brown said the costume class is her favorite part of the entire competition. She said Dalai is pretty easy-going when she puts his costume on for the competition.
“At home, it’s totally different,” Brown said. “He’s like, ‘Don’t touch me. Don’t put that on me,’ and then when we get here, it’s like paradise for him.”
Brown has been showing Dalai at competitions since she was 7. When she first got Dalai, she says she couldn’t keep the news that she was showing a llama to herself.
“I told everyone,” Brown says. “I was just so excited.”
Other 4-H exhibitors and their llamas dressed as an Oreo and milk and as Rocky Balboa and a boxer.
Sarah Orkwis attended the llama competition this year. She has watched the llama competition for about five years now. Orkwis said she loves seeing the way the kids interact with their animals.
“I love seeing the relationships that they’ve built and just all of the great things that you can do with the llamas,” Orkwis said.
Laurel Toole's favorite part of the competition is, of course, the costumes.
“The patience they show with their animals, I just think it’s astounding to see what they’re able to get done,” Toole said.
Abby Brown is already planning to come back with a new costume next year.
“I want to do it next year, and the year after that and keep doing it,” Brown said.
Rylie Koester is an intern for KCUR 89.3. You can reach her at @RylieKoester.