Free admission is sure to lure spectators to the family-friendly alpaca show at the York Expo Center this weekend. Once they're in the doors, the too-cute stars of the show will do the rest.

"I like their gentle nature," says Scott Johnston of Starry Night Alpacas near Lewisberry, the marketing chairman for the Pennsylvania Alpaca Owners and Breeders Association showcase. "Those deep brown eyes are so lovable. Each animal has a personality."

Raised for the fiber that can be sheared and spun into yarn, alpacas are technically a livestock animal, not a pet, but owners confess the creatures are something special.

"You do get quite attached to them; they're easy to love," says Beth Lutz of Painted Spring Farm Alpacas near Spring Grove. "I think people are fascinated by the animals themselves."

At the breeders showcase, more than 125 farms from at least half a dozen states will bring hundreds of alpacas to compete and to meet the public.

"The show is great for families because people can really get up close and see these lovable creatures," Johnston says. "Children are exposed to farm life and learn what wonderful fiber is obtained from alpaca."

Vendors will be doing double duty at the show, offering gear for alpaca farms as well as alpaca products for the general public. Hobbyists can pick up alpaca fibers to create their own knitted, crocheted and felted items. The less craft-inclined folks can expect to find finished scarves, hats, blankets, socks, plush toys and, of course, shawls.

Special events: The shawls get special attention Saturday, when the fleece-to-shawl demonstration kicks off at 11 a.m.

"We start with a roll of fleece, and we have people that hand-spin yarn and then one person that sits with a loom and weaves it," Lutz says. Curious spectators needn't be shy. "We let people right there mingle with the folks doing the work so they can ask questions."

The finished shawls, typically just over 6 feet long and just under 2 feet wide, are raffled off Saturday evening.

4-H Alpaca Club training
York County 4-H Alpaca Club member Tanner Hollinger, 10, leads alpaca Tia over an obstacle at Painted Spring Farm near Spring Grove during training Sunday. The 4-H'ers will guide the alpacas through an obstacle course Saturday at the Pennsylvania Alpaca Owners and Breeders Association showcase. (John A. Pavoncello)

On Saturday afternoon, young alpaca handlers from local 4-H groups will take their alpacas through a challenging obstacle course.

"They train the alpacas to do things they wouldn't normally do," Lutz says, like going up and down steps, walking over tarps and stepping through Hula-Hoops. "I have my 4-H kids start working with the young ones, (and) after two or three sessions you can convince them to put their feet on an obstacle they're not used to."

The biggest danger at the show is falling in love with the main attraction. The organizers have an answer for that, too.

"We want to educate people," Lutz says. For those curious about owning alpacas, the show is "a great place to get advice from breeders about getting started."

If the urge is irresistible, there's nothing like starting right away.

"You could even buy an alpaca," Johnston says. "Personally, I love the whole thing."

Alpaca show

The Pennsylvania Alpaca Owners and Breeders Association showcase runs from 8:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Saturday and 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday in the former Toyota Arena, now the Utz Arena, at the York Expo Center, 334 Carlisle Ave., West Manchester Township.

Spectators are encouraged to attend on Saturday, when special events throughout the day include the fleece-to-shawl demonstration, the alpaca performance and obstacle course classes, the halter classes and the herdsire parade.

Admission and parking are free.

For more information, visit and click on "2013 showcase."

- Reach Mel Barber at