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A llama on the loose in Salem as FFA students enjoy annual tradition

SALEM -- "Pay the $25 before someone sends it back." That was the common theme for many Salem businesses that couldn't help but laugh when McCook Central FFA students walked through their front door with a llama on Wednesday. "Jackson" the llama ...

McCook Central senior Ciara Rother can't stop laughing as Blake Pulse has to help her get Jackson the llama away from the window where Jackson stared at his reflection while walking past a business along Main Street in Salem as part of McCook Central FFA's annual fundraiser on Wednesday. (Matt Gade / Republic)
McCook Central senior Ciara Rother can't stop laughing as Blake Pulse has to help her get Jackson the llama away from the window where Jackson stared at his reflection while walking past a business along Main Street in Salem as part of McCook Central FFA's annual fundraiser on Wednesday. (Matt Gade / Republic)

SALEM - "Pay the $25 before someone sends it back."

That was the common theme for many Salem businesses that couldn't help but laugh when McCook Central FFA students walked through their front door with a llama on Wednesday.

"Jackson" the llama was this year's animal visitor for McCook Central FFA. As part of its annual fundraiser, McCook Central students brought Jackson around town to businesses for a quick visit. Blake Pulse is the McCook Central student who owns Jackson, and most businesses that received a visit quickly paid a fee to remove the llama.

"We've done a pig, we've done a sheep, we've done a goose, we've done a duck," McCook Central FFA adviser Terry Rieckman said. "We've done all these other animals and a cat. And (Blake) had a llama. Next year, we'll have to find a camel or something."

The event was originally scheduled during National FFA Week in February, but then was moved to run closer to National Ag Day, which was on March 14. But due to other scheduling conflicts, the McCook FFA chapter decided Wednesday was the best day to parade a llama around town.

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This year, 14 businesses bought insurance, which prevented the students and Jackson from showing up on their doorstep.

Rieckman said this year there were fewer businesses that bought insurance, as typically there are 30 to 40 businesses that opt-in. But the chapter didn't make a day-before visit delivering goodies this year. Instead, there was an appreciation dinner.

"We probably didn't get the attendance we wanted for that but it was the first year," he said.

It cost $25 for insurance ahead of time, or a business risked the animal coming on the day of the event. Once arriving, it cost $5 to send the animal away or the business could spend $25 to ensure it couldn't be sent back to them.

The proceeds from the event go back to McCook Central's FFA program.

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