In 1984 a group of people calling themselves the “East Coast Llama Lovers”, led by Marty McGee, gathered at the lovely Hidden Valley Camp in Freedom, Maine. Jay Stager hosted that event and one the following year.
At the 1985 Maine event the group resolved to 1) organize a third annual conference, and 2) meet during the winter in an effort to formalize the group into an “association” and 3) become and International Llama Association affiliate. At the winter meeting, held in New England, the name “Greater Appalachian Llama Association” was adopted, four committees were formed, and chairpersons were elected. Activities – Nancy Calhoun and Viv Fulton; Education – John Lanich and Ann Aydelotte; Membership – Laura Sawyer and Tom Marino; Communications- Marty McGee and Alysa Griggs. This early association published two newsletters (Dale Graham), and held a successful medical seminar at Tufts University, organized by Ceacy Henderson Griffin.
In 1986, the “3rd Annual East Coast Llama Conference ” was held by GALA in conjunction with The East Coast Llama Lovers in Warwick, RI, chaired by Laura Sawyer. It drew 75 attendees. Affiliation with the ILA became a reality, and a committee was appointed to develop by-laws. An interim Board of Directors was formed.
The 1987 GALA conference, chaired by Dale Graham and Tom Reichert, held in Syria, VA, drew 150 registrants. The draft by-laws were approved by the membership and the first officers and directors were elected. Also elected were representatives from the four geographical areas officially covered (anyone could join, of course) under the GALA service area, from Maine to Georgia.
The1988 conference, “Catskill”, chaired by Nancy Calhoun and hosted by GALA members Bud and Lenore Whitcomb at their Winter Clove Inn [Round Top, NY] was overwhelming. There were 350 attendees. The first Auction for Research was held at this meeting and over $6000 was raised for Meningeal Worm Research at Cornell University.
Also in 1988 the GALA Lending Library was founded to help members enhance their knowledge of lama health, welfare, use and enjoyment. Original materials and all updated additions have been donated by GALA members and are shipped free by Librarian Cynthia Ross i (return postage paid by borrower) to current members. Cynthia has also developed a Free Packet of Llama Care Information available to any GALA member who is willing to share the material with humane societies, humane agents, livestock auctions, new owners, owners who may not know how to care for their llamas, etc. As an adjunct to the Library service, in 2013, Anita Collins became the GALA archivist for historical materials to be preserved and accessed as necessary.
In 1989, GALA organized the first annual Spring GALA – an event in which GALA members across the region came together in small groups to have fun and games and share information about llamas (and eat marvelous pot-luck lunches). The GALA’89 Conference was chaired by Janie Deemer and Susan White. A Neonatal Clinic by Or. LaRue Johnson was held in conjunction with the conference. Membership exceeded 300, representing over 500 individuals. The GALA Newsletter grew. too, with input from many members. In 1988 it was published quarterly, with two special issues relating to pre- and post- conference news. 1989 saw bi-monthly publication. Polly adds:
“As GALA grows, I charge you to remember the primary reason for the organization: To educate members and the public as to the breeding, raising and caring of llamas and related camelids. We are responsible to our animals, to provide the best and most appropriate care to them. May we do it with dedication, courage, wisdom and harmony.”
GALA has grown, steadied, and grown again as owning llamas and alpacas remains a rewarding lifestyle. In 1996, ‘Alpaca’ was officially added to our name as we became the Greater Appalachian Llama and Alpaca Association, celebrating the species’ similarities.
GALA has supported ongoing camelid medical research for 27 years, reached out to those new to camelids, kept our resources – and membership – current on management practices and events through a comprehensive quarterly newsletter, and enjoy a vibrant web presence at www.galaonline.org.
We proudly count camelid industry luminaries Drs. Murray Fowler, LaRue Johnson, David G. Pugh, Karen Baum, C. Norman Evans, David Anderson, Bill Franklin and legends John Mallon, Mary McGee Bennett and Kay Patterson among our – 270 farms/households, past and present.
Since 1987, GALA has held an educational conference every year (see below) except 1992, the year the ILA held its national conference in Burlington, VT. This makes GALA one of- if not the – longest running lama conferences in the country.
Maine will have hosted GALA members, as of the 2014 conference, 5 times over 3 decades: every ten years (plus 2 other times) since the first gathering of East Coast Llama Lovers (GALA’s predecessor) in Freedom!
Be part of the tradition. Join the fun in Portland, ME, October 23-26 for the 2014 GALA Conference featuring John Mallon, trainer extra ordinaire, Dr. David Pugh, DVM extraordinaire, Linda Cortright of Wild Fibers, and many others. Learn about sustainable farming peacefully alongside carnivores, animal communication, brand new ways to work your fiber, llamas as golf caddies -in action, not to mention the latest in care, health and use. Local foods featured (ayuh, lobster, too) at an exceptional venue during fall colors in Maine. Plan your vacation and come along.
1987: First (Official] GALA Conference, Syria, Virginia: Chairs: Dale Graham & Tom Reichert, Grave Mountain Lodge
1988: Roundtop, NY “Catskill”: Chair: Nancy Calhoun, Winter Clove Inn
1989: Wheeling, WV: Ch airs: Janie Deemer & Susan White, Oglebay Park