Remembering Roy Orbit’son: Aspen’s iconic alpaca

Mop-haired face of Farm Collaborative alpaca duo dies

Britta Gustafson
Then Again
A young girl looks in on Farm Collaborative alpacas Kona (right) and Roy at the Aspen Saturday Market on Saturday, June 12, 2021, in downtown Aspen. Roy, a fixture at the Snowmass Village-based farming nonprofit, died on July 4, 2021.
Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times.

Many have referred to Aspen’s famous alpaca duo as the most photographed alpacas in the United States. And it’s likely true. Kona and Roy, the faces of The Farm Collaborative, also have their own claim to fame.

They have not only shared a the corner spotlight at Aspen’s farmers market for the past decade and are the stars of their own popular fan-formed Instagram page, but they also have attended top social events as honored guests, including exclusive Food & Wine soirées, grand openings, private home events and — of course — have hosted many an event on their own home turf at the FarmPark. A unique set of Aspen socialites, Kona and Roy have been known to collect a crowd wherever they go.

So it is with heavy hearts that we share the news with their beloved community that Roy passed away the morning of July 4. All signs point to old age, and he passed peacefully and without pain.

Roy Orbit’son was born March 5, 2008, on the Akuna Matada Alpaca ranch near Hotchkiss to Suri-alpaca mother Orbit. Roy, a full Suri alpaca, was one of a rare livestock breed. Only 1% of the total world population of alpacas are Suri alpacas.

Roy met his pal Kona when the duo arrived at the FarmPark on the same day in December 2011. Both alpacas were brought to the Farm Collaborative from two different Colorado ranches through the generosity of friend and benefactor Melinda Goldrich, our “alpaca momma” who cares deeply about alpacas — and all animals for that matter — and who wanted to share these beautiful creatures with our Aspen community, adopting them for the Farm Collaborative to raise.

Kona and Roy became fast friends, building both a life together and helping to form a significant part of the foundation of the Farm Collaborative. They were the first permanent fixtures at the FarmPark and helped to kickstart the nonprofit’s community outreach that would begin to thrive thereafter.

“I saw them more as staff than livestock, part of our team and part of our family,” said Farm Collaborative’s CEO Eden Vardy. “They really were the first faces of our organization.”

Each Saturday, while hoards of visitors and shoppers passed by his corner at the Aspen Farmers Market, snapping selfies and shoving fists of grass and hay in his face, Roy would remain stoic and unfazed. Occasionally he would lengthen his long and unkempt woolly neck to meet the eye of an onlooker, peering out through his distinctive crimped mop of rockstar bangs, and he would seemingly size them up, gnawning on hay as he held their gaze. His temperament remained ever straight-faced regardless of the chatter and banter that surrounded him, emphasizing his aloof yet subtle charm.

Not many can claim to have permeated his haughty exterior, but he did have a soft spot for those who proved their worth.

“He was, at times, almost scared and skittish, and always a little ornery, but he could be so sweet on hikes when he would get nervous and nuzzle into me for reassurance,” Vardy reminisced about Roy’s arrival at the farm.

Vardy said Roy owned that “Pacific Northwest anarchist style” if it could somehow meet hipster. And all that knew him would agree that his look matched his no-nonsense attitude. “I’ll miss him dearly,” Vardy said.

Roy was a showstopper, and he owned his space, bar none. He literally stopped Aspen in its tracks during the 2018 Fourth of July parade. While walking Kona and Roy in the parade, the Earth Keepers were forced to pause right in front of Paradise Bakery when Roy stopped to relieve himself. No amount of persuasion, even from the event security, could move him along and the parade came to a grinding halt for nearly six minutes while Roy took his time. The delay broke the parade; onlookers, assuming the procession had ended, began flooding into the streets before the second half of the parade arrived. The ensuing chaos never righted itself thanks to Roy, who would have proudly taken credit for the disorderly turmoil he created.

His short but glorious time with us presents yet again a glimpse into the ephemeral fragility of life that makes it so very beautiful and so very precious. We celebrate life daily in the farming community, and though it is always difficult to say goodbye to an animal member of our team, we feel at peace knowing that Roy will live on in the fond memories of so many. Roy will always be a part of the Farm Collaborative. Aspen will miss him.

Let’s mourn and share together. Join us on Instagram (@thefarmcollaborative) to share your favorite stories, photos and memories of Alpaca Roy.

An homage from Roy’s biggest fans

Farm Collaborative alpaca Roy Orbit’son died July 4 after years as the face of the Snowmass Village agricultural nonprofit. | Jennie Contreras/Courtesy photo

Perhaps two of his greatest fans are Eco-Apprentices Evie Curry, for whom Roy was represented on several birthday cakes, and Lia Hodgson, who first met Roy when she was 4-years-old. These two have both grown up nurturing and appreciating him, and they have written an homage to their beloved friend.

“To Roy, the punk alpaca from the Farm Collaborative that everyone came to love. … You passed in your sleep at the age of 13, and your’s was a great life. Your love for your best friend Kona was like that of a brotherhood. And your personality was as rockstar as your name.

Although you were a bit of a bad listener, one time your disobedience saved our lives. We were walking Roy through a field when suddenly he just laid down and refused to budge. We tried everything to get him to keep going, but he dug in and wouldn’t move. Right as we had given up, turning around to head back, we heard the unmistakable sound of a mountain lion’s scream from just up ahead. Realizing at that moment why Roy had refused to go any further, we all rushed back to the safety of the farm. Without Roy we would have walked right into the jaws of a deadly mountain lion.

Last spring when Kona was recovering from an illness, a goat named Blue took on the role of Roy’s temporary travel companion. During that time, while at a party on top of Aspen Mountain, Roy and Blue were separated. Desperate for her companion, Blue jumped on a table and ‘maa- ed’ like crazy until Roy broke free and ran back to comfort her.

Although you are no longer with us Roy, the hipster alpaca who spent his last week sporting a striking and fitting blue hair dye job, you will always live on in our memories, and the memories of so many Earth Keepers, kids and community members and, of course, in all of our hearts.

We hope that you hear this, our Roy, that you will never be forgotten! Rest peacefully now Roy. And thank you for your role in bringing so many to the Farm, and bringing so much to our lives. Your character added vibrancy and variety to our world.”

With love,

Evie Curry (age 12), and Lia Hodgson (age 12).

Britta Gustafson works at the Farm Collaborative and intends to continue following Roy’s ‘take it or leave it’ approach to life. Email her at


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