Ski jump fireworks stalled by alpaca litigation


SALISBURY - A Salisbury woman is in the process of filing an injunction to prevent a fireworks display scheduled at Satre Hill, next door to her farm, on Feb. 8.

Serena Granbery, owner of Morebrook Farm, has filed a lawsuit claiming that the fireworks display put on by the Salisbury Winter Sports Association (SWSA) there last year caused the miscarriage of a valuable alpaca fetus and ruined that year's crop of alpaca fiber.

"We did have an awful time last year," Granbery said. "All the animals were terrified and we lost one baby. My entire year's worth of fiber was destroyed. They were so stressed that it ruined their ability to produce healthy fiber."

Alpacas, which are shy, intelligent and fairly easy to raise, produce a strong, warm luxury fiber that is similar to cashmere. Granbery sends her crop to a national co-operative and receives fiber goods, such as mittens, shawls and yarn, in return. She said she was not able to participate in the exchange this year because the fiber produced by her animals was such poor quality.

The value of the miscarried fetus is more difficult to calculate.

"The baby that was lost was far enough along that you could see she was a rose-gray female, which is very valuable," Granbery said. Healthy, breeding adult female alpacas can sell for $25,000 or more. "It's still up in the air what the actual price tag is."

Granbery's lawsuit names SWSA and David Lewis of Berkshire Fireworks, the company that handled the display. She said she approached SWSA before the ski jumps last year and asked them not to proceed with their plans for the opening night of the annual ski jumps. Her veterinarian warned the SWSA directors of the dangers of exposing an alpaca herd to a fireworks display.

Plans to proceed this year

This week, SWSA president Ken Barker said he hoped to have the fireworks show at this year's ski jumps, but he has not yet obtained the necessary permits because he is waiting to see if the lawsuit is resolved in time.

Advertisements for the 2008 ski jumps list the fireworks show as an event Friday night, along with a new event where jumpers try to land on an illuminated target in night-time jumps.

"We were hoping that the suit would be dropped or the litigation would be complete," Barker said. "We'll continue with Friday evening target jumping under the lights."

Barker said all legal requirements were met for last year's display. The Connecticut state fire marshal licensed the Satre Hill site, which was found to be the required distance from neighbors' property lines.

Barker also said the fireworks were well received by people in town and there was a demand for a show this year.

"We sympathize with the fact that one of her alpacas miscarried, for sure, but that happens in the animal world," Barker said. He also mentioned that the fetus was not lost until two weeks after the fireworks display.

Granbery said it took two weeks for the fetus to die and be expelled. She said the entire herd sounded alarms around the clock for at least two weeks after the fireworks and that the mare that miscarried sounded alarms into June.

Looking for a better way

One solution would be to move either the fireworks display or the animals to a different location, but neither party is willing to relocate.

"Transporting is stressful," Granbery said. "In the alpaca business, you never transport a pregnant female in the first or last trimester."

Granbery said she currently has nine pregnant mares; five are in their last trimester.

Also, the logistics of moving a herd of 38 animals are daunting. Granbery said there are companies that specialize in such tasks, but they usually need to be booked months in advance. She does not know where she would take the animals if she did relocate them. But if the fireworks do go on, she feels she would have no alternative.

"I would have to move the whole herd," she said. "I couldn't afford to lose another year's fiber crop. At least the males wouldn't be upset."

Barker said moving the fireworks would also be a difficult task.

"We'd have to license another area, which becomes a long process with the fire marshall," he said.

Granbery said she wishes SWSA would consider replacing the fireworks with another, quieter event.

"I would love SWSA to consider, instead of something noisy, maybe a light show," she said. "That could be beautiful against the white hill and would solve everything."

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