Let me preface this blog with an apology. The viewing quality of the images that you are about to view is poor - I mean low resolution, fuzzy, make you think you need glasses, poor. Most of these photos were taken before the creation of a cell phone and digital cameras and have been sitting around in boxes for the past 20 years. So fair warning - you are not suffering from blurry vision - it’s just old fashion photos kids. Going forward in my blogging journey - the images should begin to reach modern day quality..….. enjoy!
While we celebrate 7 years of hosting weddings at WoodsEdge in 2019 – producing events is nothing new to us. Brent and I cut our teeth on planning and coordinating what was the first alpaca auction in the country. Nowadays alpaca is a household name, but 20-25 years ago when you told someone that you raised alpacas – they responded with an empty stare and a “Huh? Al-What”?
You see, Brent’s parents were part of the first and only importation of alpacas in to the U.S from South America (Peru, Bolivia & Chile) and were the first breeders of alpacas in New Jersey. After the last importation the quarantine station was closed and to this day you can no longer import alpacas and llamas in to the States.
Brent’s parents bred incredibly sought after alpacas with pedigrees that rivaled the Royal Family’s. If you wanted to raise alpacas, you had to have a WoodsEdge-bred. So in 1999 with a heard that topped over 300, it was time to offer a select group for sale to the highest bidder.
Rather than pitching a tent in the field (that’s a whole other story for later), it was decided that this auction needed to be quite the event – one that would entertain and drawl people from across the country. With glitz and glamour in mind and the roll of the dice, it was decided that the World’s Playground of Atlantic City was to be the host city. And the Sheraton Hotel opened its doors, parking lot and ballroom to what was, I’m sure, their first and only alpaca auction.
Production of events where animals are involved is very intricate. The utmost care and planning must be taken to ensure that their well-being and comfort is at the forefront of EVERY decision that is made. For months, along side coordinating the event from timelines and production schedules to marketing and logistics, we spent training and preparing our prized animals. With 67 of our best groomed to perfection and checked by our veterinarian for perfect health, we loaded the trailers and made multiple trips to AC.
The Sheraton was the perfect stylish resort hotel for guests, but the stars of the show also needed five-star accommodations. In the parking lot behind the hotel a tent was erected and lined with lush sod. Sparkling candy apple red water buckets were filled with water that we transported from the farm to ensure that the alpacas would feel at home and continue to stay hydrated. Matching shiny tubs overflowed with hay to keep them well fed and occupied as they normally spend their days grazing pasture land. Our veterinarian was on staff and nearby 24 hours a day and extra staff was hired to take them out for daily strolls. No short cuts were taken when it came to their well-being.
Three fun-filled days made history that October weekend. Friday offered guests the opportunity to attend seminars from carefully selected industry experts. Saturday afternoon was an unforgettable pre-sale production that would rival the Miss America pageant and included alpaca fashions, pink feathers boas and Broadway dancers mixed with alpacas in gold lame coats. The evening was capped off with one of the most exciting auctions we have ever produced.
Live auctions are invigorating events that involve quick bidding and a fast-talking auctioneer with a gavel who loves to use it. The roar from the crowd as a highly contested bidding war ended with record breaking selling price, is a sound that never gets old. The feeling butterflies in your stomach as the bids jump all around the room and the ringmen (those are the guys communicating to the auctioneer where the bid is) hoot and holler. There was no lack of excitement!
The Sale of the Century set the tone for our next venture - we started Star Events, an auction production company. This company scoured the country for the best-of-the best from prominent farms who wished to sell their livestock.
For the next decade we hit the road and produced alpaca & llama auctions all over the East Coast. From the incredible Hildene Mansion in Manchester, Vermont built at the turn of the 20th century by Abraham Lincoln’s son to a 400 acre-estate formerly owned by Walter Cronkite in Charlottesville, Virginia and our home-base at WoodsEdge; we turned a traveling circus in to a well-oiled machine.
Late nights that lasted in to the wee hours of the morning, long hours with multiple trucks and trailers over thousands of miles; it was gave Brent and I the hands-on experience that only the brave interns would sign up for.
At every turn during these events we were faced with wearing many hats which led to Brent and I being Jack of all trades……
I handled the animal paper work and check out process.
During the auctions, Brent was on the phones with the phone bidders.
Brent would build the auction podium and over see the stage set-up making sure all was safe for people and animals.
I was a bid runner. I would congratulate the winning bidder and get their signature to acknowledge their purchase.
We took the alpaca industry to a whole new level 20 years ago. And when Brent’s mother passed away, we knew that we needed to create something special in order to keep the family farm alive. For those who have hosted an event or wedding at WoodsEdge - you know the story about how weddings and special events came to be on our beloved farm……..but that’s a story for another time.
This is one of my favorite photos as Brent and I were rarely seen together on stage during an auction.
I hope you’ll stick with me and follow along as I continue to tell our story and share other fun tidbits on my blog. Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below, DM me on Instagram or email me at Amy@WoodsEdgeEvents.com