Alpacas parade around the rodeo grounds

Emmanuel Akinola, Staff Writer

Alpacas paraded through the NRG park and rodeo carnival on March 17. Several owners trekked their Alpacas through the arena to the NRG Center before leading the alpaca celebrities back to their pens.

“To bring my animals here and bring happiness to other people is everything,” says Cynthia Masters, a participant in the Alpaca Parade. Originally from El Paso, Masters has brought her livestock, which includes horses and alpacas, to the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo for over 10 years.

In the past, she also served as a horse announcer and still has an interest in agricultural journalism. Along with her family, she is a fifteenth-generation horse breeder. Years ago, she visited Peru and brought back horses, but she couldn’t resist taking alpacas as well.

Alpacas are domesticated mammals that are similar to llamas that are valued for their furry skin which is made of wool.

Alpacas are known to live for no more than 30 years of age. Their main food is hay, but also shaft hay, which is pasteurized alfalfa with molasses. The alpacas are fed each day with fresh water that Masters and the other owners bring.

Masters lent her alpacas to be exhibited at the Llama & Alpaca Show Youth Costume Contest on March 18.

To help with the youth show, eighth grader Sidney Cotton served as an exhibitor for Masters’ alpacas. She currently goes to Aragon Middle School. To be an exhibitor, the student has to be enrolled in a public or private elementary or secondary school, and at least 8-years-old to  18-years-old.

Cotton got in contact with Masters after her mom met her at a carnival. What Cotton does is dress up the alpacas, walk them across the area, and present them to the audience. The best-dressed alpaca serves as the winner on each occasion.

Last year, Cotton won third place and second place in the Youth Costume Contest. Even though this is her second time, she’s still nervous. Despite nerves, Cotton said, “I wouldn’t mind doing this as a career or side-job.”

Also helping Cotton, exhibitors and other owners are the costume designers. One of those designers, Abigail Gilbert, started this year and has had three shows so far. She lived in Fort Worth and St. Angelo before residing in Houston.

Gilbert’s particular style, as she put it, is a scenery akin to storytelling. “I actually have been going more towards movies,” Gilbert said. She’s a self-professed ‘Star Wars’ fanatic, which she incorporates into the costumes.

“This is actually more of a hobby for me,” says Gilbert, “Though it started to turn more into sort of a job.” Gilbert said. She noted that selling the costumes or displaying them can get someone easy money.

The youth show is in categories of Junior, Intermediate and Senior in the Obstacle, Public Relations, Pack Classes and Youth Showmanship.

The Public Relations category deals with animals in community activities. Pack Classes revolve around stimulating the conditions encountered by the animals on the trails. Youth Showmanship focuses on the ability to show the animal to its advantage at halter. Additionally, the exhibitor is expected to have basic skills in fitting, grooming, following directions and the style of presenting the animal to the judges for evaluation.

Young children have the opportunity to participate in a special program, “Lloan-A-Llama,” open to youth 5-years-old and in kindergarten through 18-years-old, who do not own or lease a llama or alpaca. The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo Llama Committee provide the animals. The contest is limited to those youth who are not showing the livestock.

The 2016 Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo Llama & Alpaca Show will take place on March 19 in NRG Arena. Contact or RSVP at: [email protected]