Students welcome first day of school with an alpaca


NORTH BENNINGTON — Temperatures reaching almost into the 90s couldn't keep kids and their families from the novelty of the day Wednesday — a young alpaca, ready for petting.

"We figured this would be quite a draw for parents and kids — to come see an alpaca," said Jennie Rozycki, library director of the John G. McCullough Library.

The library hosted the alpaca as part of its first-day-of-class celebration Wednesday afternoon, which also featured smoothie-making with the RiseVT smoothie bike and library card and newsletter sign-up, part of its effort to draw local children and get more of them to sign up for library cards. Wednesday was the first day of school at the Village School of North Bennington and Southshire Community School.

The library's event was part of a day of celebration for students at the Village School, with a barbecue, all-school assembly with a stilt-walker performance and a parade.

Pernod, a true black juvenile alpaca just shy of a year old, made his appearance on the library grounds just after noon.

Soon, kids of varied ages arrived — and most sought Pernod first.

"I think he's talking," said one boy, wearing a camouflage cap and a Village School of North Bennington T-shirt.

He imitated the alpaca's humming noises.

Pernod's owner, Sandy Gordon of Shaftsbury Alpacas in North Bennington, fielded questions from kids, as they gathered to pet Pernod and take pictures of him.

"[We] knew he would draw some attention," said Nicole Hall, children's librarian at the library, of Pernod.


Although the library has hosted first-day-of-class events before, having an alpaca is "new territory," Rozycki said.

One boy asked Gordon if Pernod would bite.

"He can, but he won't," she said.

He would only bite if he felt threatened — and he doesn't, she said.

Before 12:30 p.m., about eight new library card sign-ups had been collected.

Most of the village school families already have cards, but the event is open to anyone who wants to sign up, Hall said.

It's been a good year for library card sign-ups — 300 or so thus far, Rozycki said.

"My daughter heard there was a treat, so she wanted to come down," said Jennifer McKenna, as she waited for one of her daughters to take a turn on the smoothie bike. "We also have library books to return," she added.

McKenna and her five daughters are frequent patrons of the library. A lot of kids do schoolwork at the library, as it's right around the corner from the Village School of North Bennington, she said.

Patricia LeBoeuf can be reached at, at @BAN_pleboeuf on Twitter and 802-447-7567, ext. 118.


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