“Llama O’Rama” a fun and fuzzy time in Bend

Video: Club members show off their youngest animals

By Scott Hammers / The Bulletin

Published Apr 13, 2014 at 12:01AM

With 2-year-old Gabby Geers eyeing him tentatively in the parking lot of High Desert Ranch & Home on Saturday morning, llama “Night Moves” made his move, stretching his long neck to plant a kiss squarely in the middle of Gabby’s face.

Gabby squirmed, laughed and declared llama kisses “dry,” but otherwise, not so bad.

Llama lovers, the curious and a few passers-by gathered at the feed and ranch store on Bend’s north side Saturday for “Llama O’Rama,” a production of the Central Oregon Llama Association. Half a dozen baby llamas — properly called crias — were on hand to nuzzle with visitors, pose for photos and issue a few well-timed llama kisses.

The O’Rama was held in conjunction with “Spring Baby Day,” an annual event at the shop. A pen of baby goats joined the llamas in the parking lot, and inside, visitors crowded around boxes of baby chickens and turkeys.

Though less than a year old, the baby llamas at the center of it all Saturday were nearly fully grown, standing between 4 and 5 feet tall and sporting a thick coat of fleece.

Amy Prutzman, a member of the llama association and organizer of Saturday’s event, said Llama O’Rama came about as a way of helping to boost the group’s profile and raise money for a scholarship fund for veterinary students at Central Oregon Community College.

Prutzman said the scholarship will be for students interested in working with camelids, the family of animals that includes llamas and alpacas.

“There’s really only one vet that does llamas, and we really want all the vets to have some basic understanding, because there’s a lot of llamas in Central Oregon,” she said.

Veterinarians with extensive knowledge of llamas used to be more common in the region, according to association board member Adrienne Dawell-Parker, but they’ve disappeared since the llama market crashed five to 10 years back and big breeders quit the business.

“When that happened, the people who were in it for the big money dropped out, and now there’s just a few ranches left in Central Oregon,” she said.

One of the llama association’s most popular annual events, the llama hike and barbecue, was canceled this year because of the sale of the ranch where it’s been held for more than 20 years. However, llama fans will have two opportunities to see the animals up close, at the annual Black and Blue Festival May 17-18 in Prineville, and at a second Llama O’Rama set for June 21 in Crooked River Ranch.

— Reporter: 541-383-0387, shammers@bendbulletin.com