Hard work paid off for a Princeton middle school student, who emerged as a two-time grand champion after showing her llama, Smores, in August at the Mille Lacs County Fair.
Savannah Aanerud was named grand champion for the second year in a row at the 2017 county fair.
It was an especially fun triumph for the Princeton girl, who said she beat out her close friend Connor Davidson for the grand champion honor by just one point.
She edged Connor last year, too.
“It’s always me and him and we’re so close. How did I beat him out again this year,” Savannah said with surprise.
The answer includes hard work put in grooming Smores, and working with the llama on going through obstacles and other show skills.
Grooming has included learning to brush Smores, and sometimes involves giving the llama a toenail trim.
“Which she doesn’t like,” Savannah said.
“Sometimes we have a bath day, and she doesn’t like that, either,” she said.
Savannah doesn’t own Smores. The animal is leased from local llama breeder, Joan Dobbert.
Savannah said she gets her love of animals, in part, from her father, who grew up on a farm and who takes care of a herd of buffalo on her grandmother’s farm near Wadena.
She got involved with llamas after going to her friend Connor’s house and seeing an alpaca that Connor was raising.
Savannah took a liking to llamas, and was excited to first meet Smores.
“The first day I met her, she listened to me,” Savannah said.
Joan Dobbert says its rare that a llama takes to a person as quick as Smores took to Savannah.
“But sometimes they can form a bond, and with them, it was instant,” Dobbert said.
Savannah and Smores have only built on their relationship through hard work, she said.
Smores is 9-years-old. However, a llama and a new trainer, as Savannah was in 2016, generally don’t place high in their first year together, Dobbert said. But in 2016, the two were grand champions, just as they were in 2017.
Usually, they learn the ropes in the first year, and start earning ribbons in the second year, she said.
But the team of Savannah and Smores is special.
“It’s a really good experience to win a ribbon, Savannah said.
“It makes you feel good about yourself,” Savannah said. “I also think it’s amazing that I won an award like that, she said of the grand champion honor.
Savannah looks forward to 2018, the first year, because of her age, that she will be eligible to advance to the Minnesota State Fair.
She hopes to be named grand champion for the third consecutive year so she and Smores can travel together to St. Paul.