Yes, there is something cuter than a kid in a pumpkin patch: a kid in a pumpkin patch with alpacas.
At least, that’s what the owners of Black Barn Alpacas are banking on.
The 16-acre ranch in Floresville offers alpaca encounters, vacation experiences, oh-so-soft fleece products and an Instagram feed filled to the brim with big-eyed “floofs” being, well, floofy. That cuteness is going viral — even the Laredo Morning Times couldn’t resist writing about the ranch’s Instagram feed.
Now the ranch is heavily promoting its first fall festival with all the trappings — pumpkin patch, hay rides, carnival games, all month long. Admission is $10 per person, plus another $5 to pet and feed the animals and pose for your own Instagram-worthy alpaca photos.
For those looking for even more alpaca exposure, the ranch’s Instagram feed says it is looking for volunteers each weekend in October to help out, from age 13 (with permission from a guardian) on up.
“We have over 60 alpacas here on the property,” said Black Barn Alpacas events coordinator Natasha Umphres. “We’ve been really surprised by how much attention this has been getting, but people really love alpacas I guess. There’s nothing else like this around here.”
Weekends during October will also include food trucks and a La Gloria margarita truck, Umphres said.
Walking into the true-to-its-name black barn, visitors are greeted by a dozen or so fluffy alpacas. Some are soft brown, others off-white. The Black Barn’s website says it’s raising “premier black and gray alpacas with loving care and sustainability.” The ranch offers apparel and home goods made from the herd’s fleece, including gloves, hats, teddy bears and even mini alpaca figurines.
The designs come from Yussy McManus and her team, who along with husband Travis owns and resides on the ranch. Travis manages the farm team, according to the website.
The fluffy heads of the alpacas in the barn barely poke over the gates as they stare intensely with their ginormous dark eyes fringed by long curled lashes. They’re not above nibbling the bars of their pen as they seek fresh food pellets from willing visitors.
Outside, mamas and babies lounge together in a field, separated from the males, who roam in an outdoor pen by the food trucks. Several roll in piles of dirt. One scratches like a dog, lifting his back leg so his hoof can scratch his face.
Alpacas were domesticated in the Andes Mountains as long as 7,000 years ago, according to Britannica, descended from vicuñas, a wild camelid. Llamas are also camelids; they are larger, with coarser hair than alpacas, who are now bred all over the world, mainly for their silky soft fleece. They have adapted well to the South Texas heat, breeders say, as long as their coats are shorn in spring and they are offered plenty of shade.
Black Barn Alpacas notes on its website that only 50,000 “registered” alpacas can be found in the U.S. This registration validates the alpacas’ pedigree and tracks the bloodline, via DNA, according to the Alpaca Owners Association.
Umphres said the ranch is planning several holiday-themed events it will announce soon. As far as its inaugural fall festival?
“We’re hoping to make this into an annual tradition,” Umphres said. “We hope to see it get bigger and better every year.”