Show after show I hear people talking about how the junior handlers are the future of our sport. Some clubs go the extra mile to show just that and even take it one step further.

The Harvest Moon Junior Classic, in conjunction with the Del Valle Dog Club of Livermore, demonstrated its support of that philosophy with an additional goal of, in their own words: “We hope to bolster support for the spirit of camaraderie and competition among not only the future of our sport but among all of us that back them as they venture into the world of purebred dogs.”

In addition to this great event, the Junior Showmanship competitions at Del Valle Dog Club of Livermore and Skyline Dog Fanciers Association were offered free of charge! It’s not often you see that, especially at a large show. Now that’s support!

So, for those of you who were unable to attend, this is a breakdown of how it went… All class winners at the all-breed shows and all Best Junior Handlers at the specialty shows prior to Sunday were eligible to compete in the two-stage Harvest Moon Junior Classic special event. In stage one, the preliminary round, the juniors were cut into smaller groups. Each had an individual examination, but with three judges, Top-20 style.

The three Harvest Moon Junior Classic judges were not announced until the main event. They were Honey Glendinning, Ryan Horvath and Gretchen Schultz.

Each judge had a different job. While one judge was working, the other two observed. Each had a score card for evaluating each handler on preset objectives. After all of the juniors’ scores were tallied, they re-entered the ring and the Top 6 were announced with much cheering from the families sitting ringside.

Right before Group judging began, the Top 6 entered the ring for stage two of the Harvest Moon Junior Classic. It’s not often that these juniors, their parents and friends get to experience an event like this, so being chosen as a finalist and having the hope of winning was a big deal! I could feel the tension in the hall. Each junior had a quick showcase of their skills, entering the ring one at a time and free-stacking their dogs. Before a hushed crowd, the Grand Best Junior, KayCee Klang of Thousand Palms, Calif., was finally chosen!

Grand Best Junior Handler at the 2012 Harvest Moon Junior Classic KayCee Klang with her GBJH ribbon and her Briard GCh. Déjà Vu Mia Cake Walk, ‘Cagney!’

The way the judges calculated the scores made this win that much more special. The judges even announced that they had no idea who the Grand Best Junior would be because the winner was based on scoring.Not only was this a special moment for KayCee, but also for her parents, who were there the whole time watching and supporting her! I had the pleasure of chatting with her mom and dad, Gina and David Klang, about KayCee’s junior career, and I have to admit, when the moment of truth came, I was feeling a bit anxious and nervous for KayCee as well. In my opinion, she really deserved the win.

In addition to this win, KayCee took home two Best Junior wins on the two previous days! I’m pretty sure she’ll be remembering this weekend for a long time. Congrats, KayCee!

KayCee with her parents, Gina and David, after being awarded Grand Best Junior Handler.

Did I mention the prizes for this special event? KayCee received a $25 gift certificate from the vendor, The Store 4 Dogs, and her Best in Show-size rosette. In addition, former junior handler Jamie Souza Barlett offered two very special prizes. First, KayCee won a round-trip plane ticket to either the 2013 Westminster Dog Show or the 2012 AKC/Eukanuba Show. Now that’s a prize! She also went home with a 16GB iPad2. I’ve heard that KayCee had already made plans to attend Eukanuba, and now, thanks to this wonderful donation, KayCee can look forward to being at the Garden next year as well!

What a grand way to support the future of our sport!

P.S. Juniors, the Harvest Moon Junior Classic and Dogs Freakin’ Rule!