安徽快三开奖预测号码
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LunaSea Alpaca Farm in Clermont, Fla. offers tours and private encounters with alpacas.

Winter Garden resident Mandy Sewell and her family waited in the field as King Fowler corralled female and baby alpacas. “Get ready,” he warned. As he opened the gate, the friendly animals rushed toward the group, in search of treats the humans held.

Emma Sewell, Mandy’s daughter who lives in Tampa, laughed as she bonded with one alpaca on the ground. Her partner, Shamar Henderson, captured the moment with his phone, while Jack Sewell, Mandy’s son, distributed treats from a bag.

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As for Mandy and her husband, Mark, the two were busy capturing an alpaca selfie.

This was more than an ordinary visit to LunaSea Alpaca Farm in Clermont — founded by King and Lucy Lee Fowler. It was Mandy’s birthday as well as a bucket list item.

“It’s just been on my to-do list,” Mandy said. “I’m going for some cancer treatment, and I’m just looking for fun things to do in between when I’m feeling good.”

Mandy Sewell celebrates her birthday at LunaSea Alpaca Farm. Sewell is undergoing cancer treatment and a visit to an alpaca farm has been an item on her bucket list.
Mandy Sewell celebrates her birthday at LunaSea Alpaca Farm. Sewell is undergoing cancer treatment and a visit to an alpaca farm has been an item on her bucket list. (Sarah Espedido / Orlando Sentinel)

LunaSea Alpaca Farm offers tours for the public but provides private encounters for visitors with special needs or circumstances. An invitation to such a tour was extended to the Sewell family.

“It allows that family to have a more personal experience and to get out of the house and to do something educational as well as interactive,” Lucy Lee said.

While the Fowlers are well-versed in alpacas today, that wasn’t always the case.

What’s an alpaca?

About 10 years ago, a friend of the Fowlers announced she was starting an alpaca farm in Kentucky. Lucy Lee wondered, “What’s an alpaca?”

“I didn’t know if it was a mammal or a bird or what,” she said. “And she showed me a picture on the internet, and I just fell in love with them. They’re just so cute.”

LunaSea Alpaca Farm is home to 32 alpacas.
LunaSea Alpaca Farm is home to 32 alpacas. (Sarah Espedido / Orlando Sentinel)

A couple of years later, a man entered the credit union where Lucy Lee worked to deposit a check with “alpacas” in the memo line. She spoke to the man, who invited her to his farm to see his animals. In 2012, she and King purchased an alpaca named Lolita from the man, intending to send her to the Kentucky farm.

One alpaca led to four and then more. Lolita never made it to Kentucky, as the Fowlers bought a farm later that year.

“I would not recommend getting into alpacas the way that we did. We did it totally backwards,” Lucy Lee said with a laugh. “But I wouldn’t trade any of it for anything. We’ve loved every minute of this since we started.”

Lucy Lee Fowler, co-owner of LunaSea Alpaca Farm, named the farm in memory of her daughter. 2nd Lt. Taryn Ashley Robinson, a member of the U.S. Air Force, passed away in January 2006 after sustaining injuries in a pilot training exercise in September 2005.
Lucy Lee Fowler, co-owner of LunaSea Alpaca Farm, named the farm in memory of her daughter. 2nd Lt. Taryn Ashley Robinson, a member of the U.S. Air Force, passed away in January 2006 after sustaining injuries in a pilot training exercise in September 2005. (Handout)

As for the name, the Fowlers decided to honor Lucy Lee’s daughter, Taryn Ashley Robinson, a 2005 graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy, who succumbed to injuries she sustained in a pilot training accident in September 2005.

“Since she was born, she was always called peanut,” Lucy Lee said. “She shortened it to ‘nut’ and then she would embellish that so whatever she was doing, she was that nut, so she was flyingnut, sailingnut, boatingnut … Another word for a nut is a lunatic,” and the way in which lunatics act is called lunacy.

They bought a boat and named it LunaSea, eventually extending that name to the farm as well.

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Building toward tours

The couple worked hard on their land, adding fencing, building shelters and more. Passersby noticed and asked to see the animals. King obliged.

“It wasn’t really a thing at first. It was just sharing our love for the animals with the public,” Lucy Lee said. “And a year ago Thanksgiving, things just all of a sudden took off. We had folks coming to the farm and they posted about us on Facebook. And it just exploded.”

After that, the pair decided to offer scheduled tours.

During the about one-hour experience, King guides guests through the farm, where they’ll see three llamas, 32 alpacas, chickens, cats and more. He starts in the male alpaca pen, where guests feed the animals pellets and take photos as King shares his alpaca expertise. Then the group heads across the driveway to a fenced area where they feed a treat to llama from their lips before awaiting the stampede of treat-seeking alpacas.

If there are babies in the nursery, guests will sit on the felted floor as the animals approach, playing with guests’ hair, hats, shirts and more.

A highlight for many LunaSea Alpaca Farm guests is interacting with the baby animals.
A highlight for many LunaSea Alpaca Farm guests is interacting with the baby animals. (Sarah Espedido / Orlando Sentinel)

“Toddlers will play with everything. Same with the baby alpacas,” said Lucy Lee. “They’re just very curious and they get into all kinds of stuff.”

Tours are limited to 12 people, but the Fowlers can accommodate larger groups.

“Our animals are number one with us, so we don’t want too many people on a tour at the same time,” Lucy Lee said. “We don’t want to stress out the alpacas.”

In addition to the tours, the Fowlers raise alpacas for their fiber, which is sheared once a year and sent to a mill or saved so Lucy Lee can spin it. Alpaca products can be purchased in the farm’s gift shop.

Mandy Sewell celebrates her birthday at LunaSea Alpaca Farm in Clermont.
Mandy Sewell celebrates her birthday at LunaSea Alpaca Farm in Clermont. (Sarah Espedido / Orlando Sentinel)

A check on the list

When the Fowlers heard Mandy’s story, they were surprised.

“Somebody’s bucket list is supposed to be the most wonderful things they can think of that they haven’t had an opportunity to do,” Lucy Lee said. “When the daughter told me this was on her mom’s bucket list, I thought, wow, I’m thrilled and humbled that they would want to come to our farm for this.”

And the day exceeded expectations, Mandy said.

“It was excellent,” she said. “King made it a really good experience.”

If you go: Tours at LunaSea Alpaca Farm in Clermont cost $10 per person (free for ages 3 and younger) and are by appointment only (call 352-223-9459). For more information, visit lunaseaalpacafarm.com, facebook.com/LunaSeaAlpacaFarm or instagram.com/lunaseaalpacafarm.

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