Pete Klein has been hit by his share of alpaca spit.

Pete Klein has been hit by his share of alpaca spit.

But none of it was intended for him, the Blacklick alpaca farmer hastened to point out. He just happened to get caught in the crossfire when some of the animals in his herd, which grew to 39 members with the birth of two babies, called "cria," two weeks ago.

Klein will have some of the 1-year-old males from his Swisher Creek Farm, with the help of nearby Tick Ridge Alpaca Farm owner Shelley Wetherill, at the fifth annual Harvest Market in Town Center on three consecutive weekends, Oct. 4, 11 and 18, from 8 a.m. to noon.

Sponsorship of Harvest Market has been taken over this year by the Grove City Community Club. It has been a project of Grove City Town Center Inc., an organization for downtown merchants and business owners.

Putting on what amounts to an extension of the Farmers Market had become too much of a burden on the Town Center Inc. member who had organized it for the past several years, according to the organization's president, Sharon Downs.

"Basically it's a volunteer thing," Downs said. "When you don't have manpower to do things like that, you have to look at another way."

As a member also of the Community Club, Downs indicated she offered sponsorship to the venerable organization first before seeking another outlet.

"They were willing to take this on as a project," she said.

"We sure didn't want it to go by the wayside, because it is nice for downtown," Downs added. "But it does take time to get things up and running."

Getting things going hasn't been easy, conceded Wilma Phillips, Harvest Market co-chairwoman along with Karen McNicol for the Community Club.

But it's coming along, according to Phillips.

"We're having a variety," she said.

Vendors offering baked goods, perennials, handmade jewelry, artwork, , custom-made pillows, table runners, home interior items, silk flower arrangements, fruit-based oven and grill sauces, bison meat and pumpkin-focused pies, cakes and cookies have been lined up, Phillips said.

Community Club members will be selling chicken salad, bean soup, baked items and crafts.

Vending applications are being accepted to sell fruits, vegetables, pumpkins, gourds, flowers, pies, cakes, breads, handmade crafts and more. Those interested should call Phillips at 875-7931 or McNicol at 875-8590 for more information or to receive a vending application.

Community Club members are hoping curiosity about alpacas will be one of the draws to bring customers to these vendors.

They certainly got their share of attention this past summer at the Gahanna Farmers Market, according to Pete Klein. As was the case then, he will be bringing some of the gentler young males to the Harvest Market.

"I'll be in the pen with the animals and keep them up against the side so the people can pet them," Klein said.

Wife Judy will be on hand to display and sell some of the hats, purses, gloves and scarves made from alpaca fiber. It's much warmer than wool, according to Pete Klein, and nowhere near as itchy. In fact, it's hypoallergenic so even people allergic to wool and animals can wear clothing that comes from alpacas. People do have their misconceptions about the animals, which were first imported into this country from South America about 20 years ago.

"The biggest thing people will bring up is, 'Oh, boy, are those llamas?' " Pete Klein said.

Alpacas and llamas are both members of the Camelidae family, but the latter is nearly twice as big.

Next, people want to know if the animals spit.

"Now alpacas are not as apt to spit as a llama," Pete Klein said. " I've never seen an alpaca spit at a person. I kid people and say, 'The only time they spit is when you call them a llama.'

"They all have their own personality," he said of his animals. "Every one is a little different. Some of them are real standoffish and some of them are real friendly."

One cria in his herd, about three months old, follows him around like a dog and nudges him to be petted, according to Klein.

He and Judy got into alpaca farming six years ago when they were approaching retirement and looking for something to supplement their income.

"We both loved animals and we couldn't have livestock that we had to slaughter," Pete Klein said.

The relatively small, gentle, even bashful alpaca fit the bill.

"It's probably one of the best things I ever did in my life," Klein said.

He hopes that having alpacas at the Harvest Market might inspire some Grove City-area landowners to consider starting alpaca farms, preferably with animals from his herd.

"Oh, absolutely," Klein said.