It all started with a pair of socks.
Debbie Lepp of Caputa Alpacas joyfully asked small children if they would like some food on Monday at the Petting Zoo at the Black Hills Stock Show. The feed wasn't meant for the kids to snack on, though; it was for her four alpacas looking curiously from their pen.
The animals' lips tickled their palms as they ate sweetly and gently from the children's hands.
"They make everybody smile," Lepp said. "They just do."
Lepp and her husband, Glenn, needed those smiles the alpacas provide after they had lost their home and three dogs in a fire this summer.
Glenn Lepp said they are starting to rebuild next week while Debbie invited everyone out to their place to learn more about their beloved alpacas.
"We have new babies every June to July," she said.
The Lepps came out to showcase their animals in support of youth in agriculture and to spread the word about alpacas and the benefits of keeping them and using their fleece in place of wool.
"They are one of the greatest types of small acreage livestock," Glenn said.
When asked how they got into the alpaca business, Glenn said it was rather serendipitous.
"I bought a pair of socks," he said with a laugh.
Those socks were made of alpaca fleece, and when he found out people with wool allergies can wear alpaca instead, it just went from there.
Debbie said it doesn't hurt that they are just fun to have around.
"They're very smart, very curious, people friendly and kid friendly," Debbie said. "The smile everybody gets when they see them is my favorite part. They are just so friendly and so fun."