By Mary Heyl
The Cattaraugus County Fair is renowned for its variety of entertainment, but, as many fair-goers discover every year, it also provides a wealth of interactive, educational exhibits about agriculture in the region. Two of those exhibits, Mager Mountains Alpacas and the “AG Discovery Tent,” sponsored by the Farm Bureau, will be returning to the fair for 2015 from Aug. 3-9.
For the fifth year in a row, Mager Mountain Alpacas of Little Valley will be a part of the fair. Owners Paul and Sue Mager participate in just a few off-farm events each year, including the Ellicottville Fall Festival, and are looking forward to sharing their alpacas again this year. Anyone curious about these shy, sweet animals and their soft fleece will enjoy the Mager’s educational booth.
Visitors can meet two alpacas at the Mager Mountain Alpacas booth, which is located in the in-field on the fairgrounds. Paul Mager explained that each year, he and Sue consider which of their alpacas will be best able to handle the activity of the fair. Because of the traffic and noise, the fair can be a stressful experience for the alpacas, which are herd animals that are most content at home on their farm. This year, the Magers are bringing two young males under the age of two years, who are both approachable and people-friendly.
An important element of the Mager Mountain Alpacas booth is its emphasis on education. According to Mager, “At the fair…our emphasis is on educating people about alpacas, not only regarding starting alpaca farms and the benefits of ownership, but also what you do with alpaca fleece — why people raise them and the products people make from them.”
Throughout the week, there will be spinners turning the luxuriously soft alpaca fleece into yarn on their spinning wheels. There, visitors can learn about what makes alpaca fiber unique, including its hypoallergenic quality and supreme warmth. The Magers are also bringing some of their products from their So-Soft Gift Shop to show visitors what kinds of gifts and clothing alpaca fiber is used for.
At their booth, the Magers explain the history of alpacas, where they originated, and their growing popularity in the United States.
“Many people want to raise alpacas, but don’t know what’s required, so explain that they can’t have just one because they are herd animals,” he said.
Fair-goers are encouraged to visit Mager Mountain Alpacas after the fair, as there are two babies (“crias”), which, according to Mager, are the best part of raising alpacas: “Once they can walk, all they do is frolic and play in the yard…we get so much joy out of watching them!”
Another important part of preparing for the fair is getting the alpacas trained for the obstacle course during the alpaca show, which will take place at 9 a.m. on Friday, August 7.
Mager said, “We’ll give demonstrations to show the public that these animals will do some amazing things as they follow their trainers through the obstacle.”
The Magers will also use the obstacle course to help 4-H students learn how to handle the alpacas.
Although visitors to the Mager Mountain Alpacas booth have much to gain from learning about these beautiful animals, the Magers get just as much joy out of sharing their passion at the fair.
In Mager’s words, “We love the animals, not just raising them for the profit, but we enjoy the different personalities that each of the animals have. We just love to share the animals with people so they become educated about them, and at the same time we’re able to expand the industry.”
Indeed, the Magers, who have been raising alpacas since 2002, have helped many area alpaca farms get started by sharing their knowledge and experience with those beginning a farm of their own. For more information about Mager Mountain Alpacas, visit www.MagerMountainAlpacas.com and be sure to check out their booth at the Cattaraugus County Fair next week!
Just across from Mager Mountain Alpacas’ booth is the AG Discovery Tent, where Sue Mager, a member of the Farm Bureau Board of Directors, will be working to promote local agriculture. This year, the Farm Bureau has assembled a team of experts to educate the public on a variety of topics with daily, interactive exhibits.
Each day focuses on a different theme. Monday, August 3 is Plant Day and Maple Day, Tuesday is Farm Safety and Alternative Energy day. Wednesday brings farming to life with Farming Fun and Pumpkinville Day, and on Thursday, Darin and Katie Hill, partners at Hill’s Valley Farm, LLC, in Cattaraugus will share their experience working with 150 Brown Swiss and Holsteins on Dairy Day. Friday is Horse Day and Saturday is Fiber Day, which will feature several area spinning and weaving experts. On the final day of the fair, Sunday, Aug. 9, Dana Seymour will share information about Aphis Invasive Species.
Indeed, the Cattaraugus County Fair remains true to its roots, as agricultural education is central to its many exhibits. For more information about the Cattaraugus County Fair, including the full schedule of agriculture events, visit www.CattaraugusCoFair.com or call (716)938-9146.