Of all the things Lindsay Watkins thought she might see on her way back from a concert in downtown Gainesville Tuesday night, a llama wasn’t one of them.
The 23-year-old first-year UF musicology graduate student received a call from one of her classmates to walk over to see the llama. Initially, she was confused when she first saw it.
“I thought, ‘Why is there a llama in Gainesville?’” Watkins said.
Thaddeus the llama has traveled all over the country. He travels with Ethan Abbott, also known as Ethan the Farmer, a man who uses animals to start a conversation about social issues including mass incarceration, prison slavery and homeless laws.
“I show up with a llama and that pretty much creates an event all by itself,” Abbott said.
Abbott also brings other animals around the country, including two alpacas, six dogs, chickens and pigeons. Abbott said he took all of these to President Donald Trump’s inauguration.
In 2000, Abbott was a farmer in Colorado. He started using llamas to spark conversations about where people’s food comes from.
When he was farming, Abbott raised llamas and alpacas. He soon realized that they were trainable and smart. The first llama he raised was Thaddeus’ sister. Eventually, this relationship inspired him to travel with Thaddeus.
Abbott and Thaddeus visited Miami, Fort Myers, Sarasota, Tampa and Ocala. They left Gainesville Wednesday.
Abbott transports his animals in a gutted van that he ensured was suitable for them.
Thaddeus may return to University Avenue next Spring. Abbott said he hopes he was able to inspire students he spoke with to change the world.
“Turn off the TV. Get off the couch. Get in the street to actually start taking action to be the change,” he said.
Contact Sarah Mandile at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @sarahmandile.