Next month, my family and I, along with 50,000 other people each day will journey to a place where singing and dancing is commonplace, dressing up in your favorite costume is encouraged, and people worship a large singing, smiling, pant wearing rodent. Yes folks…we are going to Disney World. This is about as appealing to me as dropping a concrete block on my bare foot, but my wife tells me “it’s time.” Our daughter is six years old and I have been informed that this is the perfect age for her to experience one of the largest commercial enterprises in the United States.
It’s not the Disney parks themselves that I am dreading. I actually enjoy rides and experiencing the shows. However, I would like to experience those things without 50,000 other people. Kids screaming, parents yelling, people constantly bumping into you, and the waiting…oh the waiting. Standing in line with several hundred other parents and kids for long periods of time just is not my idea of a vacation. I’m sure I will enjoy some things, but when I’m standing in those lines with the child behind me dripping ice cream on my foot, I’ll be thinking about how nice it will be to go back to work!
My distaste of large crowds of people is just one part of my often conflicting personality. I say that because while I am often uncomfortable being among large crowds of people, I would gladly step in front of that same group to speak or provide a presentation. It seems strange I know, but presenting and speaking is something that I really enjoy. Those who know me well, understand that in most cases I prefer to remain in the background, quietly getting things done and crossing them off the list. I am most pleased when I see an event, project, or initiative go really well and people never know what my role was. I am more than happy to give others credit. It is for that reason that my personality with regard to speaking in front of groups seems so contradictory.
Having the opportunity to visit alpaca shows, affiliate meetings, the national show, and the annual meeting and speaking is a great joy for me. It’s exciting for me to be able to talk about what it is we do at AOA and answer your questions. I often have folks ask me if I get nervous or intimidated, but what I feel is often contrary to that. I feel at home and become energized when I step in front of a group of people to speak. Ironically though, once I am done speaking, I am more than happy to fade back into the background and continue crossing things off the to do list.
While working to complete the day-to-day business of AOA and the merger transition, which has consumed a great deal of time, I have still had an opportunity to speak to several groups throughout this year. Obviously, I spoke at the annual meeting at nationals in Harrisburg, PA. I also had the great privilege to speak at a couple of affiliate events including Alpaca Breeders of the Rockies and Pacific Northwest Alpaca Association.
However, my most interesting presentation was last week. I was asked to speak to the Kansas State University Camelid Medicine Club. This was something totally new for me. I have never been asked to speak to a group of vet students. Clearly, I am not qualified to speak about veterinary medicine! I spoke with my contact to get a better idea of what their expectation was. They were primarily interested in hearing about the industry, our history, the basics about alpacas, and what they could do to help the alpaca industry as they worked through their college careers and began their professional careers around the country. Additionally, they were very intrigued to learn about our Expected Progeny Differences (EPD) program and our DNA testing. In fact, over half the group stayed after the regular meeting ended to have me go through our DNA testing and parentage validation process.
This was a great opportunity that I could not turn down. As you know, the alpaca and llama industries struggle to find quality veterinarians that are willing to work with camelids. Unfortunately, it is an animal that most vet students may never encounter during their entire college experience. As such, I wanted to take advantage of this opportunity to speak to this group, so that they were not only exposed to the possibility of working with camelids, but even just so they know we exist. KSU has a benefit over most campuses, in that they have a research alpaca herd that was provided to them by Mid-America Alpaca Foundation. Hopefully my visit will encourage them to seek out opportunities to work with alpacas.
This year has been an anomaly because of the merger transition. Because a lot of my extra time has been consumed by that issue, including several trips to Nashville, I wasn’t able to attend as many shows or events this year as I have in the past. I have missed the opportunity to speak to groups throughout our industry and I am excited to get back to that. Assuming I still have my sanity next month after hearing It’s a Small World and ‘Let It Go’ a thousand times, I will be attending the American Alpaca Showcase in Des Moines, Iowa. That will probably be the last show of the year that I am able to attend within my AOA budget. However, I am always available to come to a show or meeting to speak for any AOA affiliate group or member farm who is willing to cover my expenses. I do not charge speaking fees, and I would be happy to try to attend your event.
Next year, I will attempt to resume a more normal show schedule, and look forward to seeing all of you. In the meantime, wish me luck as I prepare to take on the crowds and craziness that is the House of Mouse.