A return from hiatus
Text and photo by JUDY ROYAL
If you want to turn heads on the beach, forget about a skimpy bathing suit or a fancy new surfboard. All you really need are llamas.
On a recent unseasonably hot fall morning, 11 llamas and their people descended upon the Fort Fisher State Recreation Area – much to the delight of those lounging on the shore – and commanded more attention than someone holding up a sign reading “free beer.” The spectacle was part of the Llama Beach Rendezvous, an event held under the auspices of the Southern States Llama Association that brings together participants from across the Southeast.
“We had a lot of people hugging and taking selfies with the llamas,” said Greg Hall, who came down for the Sept. 27-29 event from Dobson in western North Carolina with his wife Maylene and their three llamas Pongo, Smiley and Peanut. The couple has been every year it’s been held. “We’re looking forward to doing this again next year.”
Vicki Sundberg of SundMist Pastures in Bolivia and others started the Llama Beach Rendezvous in 2006 as a way to bring together the majestic animals and their owners in a relaxed atmosphere not centered around formal llama shows. The previous groups camped on Sundberg’s farm property as a home base and visited Cape Fear area attractions, an unexpected sight for almost everyone they encountered. This continued annually for the next seven years. The first event hosted three llamas, but by 2012 there were 27 llamas in attendance.
Due to various circumstances, the Llama Beach Rendezvous went on hiatus from 2013 to 2018. Sundberg, however, decided to revive the concept for this year and beyond, instead using campsites at Carolina Beach State Park as a home base.
“Every year people were asking about it,” she said. “This is my last year of doing llama shows, and I didn’t want to lose contact with everyone. With me not traveling to shows, I wanted them to come to me.”
Nine families, including their llamas and even a few dogs, kicked off the weekend with a potluck on Friday evening and then spent Saturday morning hiking around the Fort Fisher area before heading over to the beach for wading into the surf – always an interesting experience for the llamas that have never seen the ocean – and games, including llama limbo. The event concluded with a visit to Brunswick Town/Fort Anderson State Historic Site, which is typically closed on Sunday but opened especially for the occasion.
“We’ve always tried to combine the beach history and the fauna and flora unique to this area so it’s worth people’s time to travel this far,” Sundberg said. “We have so many unique aspects, particularly when you put llamas in the mix.”
This year, David and Andie Frederick came all the way from Zephyrhills, Fla., to experience the Llama Beach Rendezvous for the first time. Although they own seven llamas, they decided to check out this year’s event without their animals in tow.
“We’ve always wanted to do this,” Andie said. “We’re hoping to also try to do a day down here in Florida. I’ve never seen llamas on the beach. We haven’t had that experience. It’s very unique.”
While there is not yet a date set for next year, Sundberg said plans are in the works for a 2020 Llama Beach Rendezvous.
“We really enjoyed it,” Andie said. “We’ll be back. We’ll go every year she has it.”