Henry County Holiday Bazaar

Raising alpacas provides
a unique hobby for one woman

Coonley sells handmade
fiber art style coats, rugs and hats

By Helen E. McKinney
Contributing Writer

(November 2011) – Wanting to fill her "empty nest" with something constructive, stay-at-home mom Denise Coonley was searching for a hobby that would keep her happy and busy. When her son left for college, Coonley began researching the alpaca market, realizing this would adequately fill her need to take care of something.
After seeing alpacas on a TV commercial, Coonley was hooked. Having learned that alpacas are easy to raise, Coonley now owns 14 huacaya alpacas on her five-acre Bluebonnets and Bluegrass Alpaca Farm in Crestwood, Ky. The animals range in age from 2 1/2 months to 14 years old. The huacaya alpacas have a dense, fluffy fleece and are a more common type of alpaca.
When pondering the idea of raising alpacas, Coonley and her husband, Rusty, visited various alpaca farms. “I researched them for a couple of years before purchasing any,” she said.

Denise Coonley

Photo by Helen McKinney

Denise Coonley raises alpacas on
her Crestwood, Ky., property after
becoming hooked from a TV commercial.


Rusty, a UPS pilot, is away from home a considerable amount of time, and Coonley decided the alpacas were just what she needed to fill her extra time since she was not working a full-time job. The couple has lived in Oldham County for 13 years, and Coonley said her husband is “just as involved as I am.”
Coonley, 49, said she absolutely loves everything about caring for the alpacas: halter training, herd health, cria birthing, breeding and working with their fiber. She has taken classes within the last four years to learn how to spin and knit alpaca wool. She learned about available classes through the Kentucky Alpaca Association. That organization “helped me to find avenues for classes and people to teach me.”
After spinning the fiber into yarn, Coonley then weaves rugs, pillows, wine huggers, scarves, felted purses, vests, coats and hats. Wanting to become part of the growing fiber arts industry, she enters many arts and craft shows, especially in the fall of the year.
Coonley will be a vendor at the 19th annual Henry County Extension Holiday Bazaar on Saturday, Nov. 12. The event takes place from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the 4-H Fairgrounds Building located on Hwy. 421 between New Castle and Pleasureville, in Henry County. In addition to Coonley’s items, other products for sale will include soy candles, customized farm toys, silver and glass beaded jewelry, goatmilk soap and lotion, macramé dog collars and leashes, wood turned items, wildlife and nature photography, paintings, stained glass items, painted furniture, leather wallets, belts and cellphone cases and homemade baked goods.
Coonley, originally from Texas, will also have alpaca fabric and felted soaps for sale. These soaps begin with a nice, natural bar soap, such as Yardley, around which she wraps a thin roping of alpaca fiber. Between the friction of wrapping and cross-wrapping the soap, a kind of wash cloth is created around the soap. She creates nesting balls, as well, which she said, “birds love.”
This holiday bazaar has gotten better each year, said Maryellen Garrison, Henry County Extension Agent for Family and Consumer Science. “I think the quality and variety of the items has improved,” she said.
It appeals to “individuals who are discriminating and love to buy one-of-a-kind special gifts that you can’t get at the big stores or mall. I also think it appeals to people who believe in a sense of community and buying local and supporting our local artisans and craftspeople.”
Garrison said a large percentage of the shoppers are local, but they also come from the surrounding counties of Shelby, Trimble, Jefferson, Oldham and Spencer. Through previous year’s reports from participants, she said that “we estimate that the bazaar keeps over $15,000 in shopping dollars in the county.”
With approximately 35 booths, the bazaar provides a great venue for artists to display and sell their artwork, Garrison said. It provides an opportunity for non-profits to raise funds for their organizations. Local organizations that take part in the bazaar are the Henry County Art and Craft Guild, the Senior Citizens, the Homemakers and the Rotary Club. Proceeds made benefit a variety of civic programs.

• For more information on Denise Coonley’s alpaca products, please visit www.BlueAlpacas.com. For more information on the Henry County Extension Holiday Bazaar, contact the Henry County Extension Office at (502) 845-2811.

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