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Llama, alpaca or push-me-pull-you?

by Ashley Noel Hennefer

Ever wondered why the word “llama” is spelled with two l’s? Or what the difference is between a llama and an alpaca? The person to ask would be retiring llama judge Virginia Christensen, expert in all things llama.

Christensen, 75, has been a Nevada llama and alpaca judge for over 20 years.



The owner of a herd of 24 llamas, she became involved with the international Alpaca and Llama Show Association in 1987, first starting as a judge, then serving as secretary for the board of directors, later becoming one of the original ALSA clinic instructors.

Throughout all these positions, she has trained future judges, volunteered for numerous llama organizations all over the country, and written for many publications. She has also been very dedicated to her own animals.



“We just bought llamas in 1982, and went from there,” she said of her initial involvement.

Christensen and her family moved to Gardnerville 20 years ago from Southern California after her husband’s retirement, in order to raise their llamas in a suitable environment. They still have two of their original llamas.

Christensen’s retirement is being recognized with a banquet and llama show. People from all over the country are scheduled to attend.

“She has been at the forefront of the llama industry since its inception,” said event director Gayle M. Woodsum. “Virginia has really been a leader. She really wanted people to see these animals for their many uses, and she just has such an appreciation for them.

“She has such a strong sense of ethics,” said Woodsum of Christensen’s participation in numerous shows.

As for post-llama adventures, Christensen said she doesn’t have many plans.

“I’m almost 76 years old, what else am I going to do?” she joked.

A weekend of llama events will be March 17-19 in Reno. Festivities will be going on all day Friday and Saturday, 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. and 8 a.m. until about 2 p.m. on Sunday at the Reno Livestock and Event Center. March 18 includes a banquet, to begin at 6:30 p.m., and a llama show in honor of Christensen. The banquet will be presented by the Reno Hilton chefs and the show will feature many different events. Throughout the weekend, there will be many llama-related specialty booths for people to shop, and the llama show will be going on with four rings of halter and obstacle classes taking place at the same time each day. There is no admission fee, and the public is welcome to come watch these events.

For more information, visit http://www.vcclassic.com