Airdrie - With the help of a few of his farm animal friends, Allen the Alpaca has been bringing smiles to Airdronians’ faces since his rise to stardom last summer.
Co-owners Morgan Cooper and Carly Ingeveld originally bought Allen as a companion for one of the horses at the Willow Ridge Equine facility west of Airdrie, where they both train and provide equine therapy.
After discovering the affable alpaca was an instant hit with parents and party-goers at a young niece’s birthday party last summer, they figured they could make party visits with Allen a regular component of their business.
“All the parents there thought he was the coolest and thought ‘Can we have Allen at our birthday too?’ So, then we kind of thought we could do this,” Cooper said.
“And then one day when it snowed, Allen tried to come in the house and he was watching cartoons and we posted the photo on his page. It went fully viral and it’s been insane since then.”
The cartoon-loving alpaca now has more than 12,000 fans on Facebook and that number has been growing ever since.
In light of his popularity, Cooper and Ingeveld began offering visits with Allen’s other friends, Creampuff the pony, Fuzzbucket “Fuzzy” the pig, Gary and Frank the bottle-fed Pygmi goats, and Mrs. Chicken. They also offer barn visits with Allen and his friends, as well as some of the additional animals at the facility, including a wide array of dogs, cats, and horses.
According to Cooper, the visits to the barn provide a break from the stress of the COVID-19 pandemic and offer kids and adults an hour of fun with a fuzzy farm friend. And Allen doesn’t mind either, she added, as the alpaca loves to be around people.
"Kids can’t have normal birthdays, they don’t get to have their friends over for their birthday so [they] get to have a different type of friend over for [their] birthday,” she said. “It’s quite a bit of fun and it’s in this kind of time right now when everybody needs a smile, so why not have an Alpaca for an hour?”
She added at first glance, some kids are apprehensive about the alpaca, but they always warm up to him in the end.
“It’s been huge – I think we’ve had a big impact on mental health for kids [and] adults too,” she said, adding that Allen has attended lots of adult birthday parties and office functions over the last year.
Cooper said Allen and his friends are ideal party guests where people need a good cheering up, no matter the location. She added that Allen has been in office buildings, has ridden elevators in downtown Calgary office towers, and has even been a guest at functions hosted by the Bridgeland Market and the Airdrie Food Bank.
“Everyone is always like, ‘You guys are famous,” Cooper said. “[But] it’s like, Allen is famous, we’re just living it.”
When Allen is not attending functions around town, he enjoys lots of rest and relaxation, and munching on his favourite snack of snap peas and grapes.
To accommodate for COVID-19 restrictions, Cooper said she or Ingeveld will drop Allen off and wait in their vehicle until his time is up, offering any assistance when needed. They also offer barn visits at Willow Ridge Equine with a limit of five people.
Cooper and Ingeveld charge a $200 fee for one hour with Allen, and an additional $50 for any of his friends. The fee may vary depending on location and customized experience.
For more information on Allen or his friends, visit the Allen the Alpaca Facebook page
Follow me on Twitter @carmenrcundy
Read more from AirdrieToday.com