I like to let readers know what’s going on in several different areas of the country in our Shows Closing article each week, but this week there is one cluster that offers so much for exhibitors that it deserves its own focus. If you’ve never traveled to the Bay Area in Northern California for the Del Valle weekend, you’ve missed what is truly one of the most memorable dog show experiences offered in the U.S. So many things contribute to making it a special occasion, and now that two additional all-breed shows are included in the cluster it’s even better than ever.

A Big Weekend in the Bay Area

Del Valle Dog Club of Livermore has for many years held what I think are among the best shows in the United States on the third weekend of October. Now Skyline Dog Fanciers of San Mateo County has joined Del Valle and local specialty clubs to create the five-day Harvest Moon Cluster, from Thursday, October 18 through Monday, October 22.

The Del Valle show committee, headed by Betty-Anne Stenmark, has always worked diligently to create a positive show experience for exhibitors, providing dozens of “little extras” that make the show something special, and above all providing thoughtfully selected judging panels. Now Ryan Horvath and Sandra Pretari Hickson, show chair and assistant show chair for Skyline, join Betty-Anne in what is no doubt a monumental task of putting together a five-day cluster that is really just about unmatched by any other. Of course, lots of other hardworking members from both clubs make up the show committees that make it all happen.

All-breed shows are hosted by Skyline on Thursday and Friday, with specialties only on Saturday and all-breed shows again hosted by Del Valle on Sunday and Monday. At least 36 specialty shows will be held on Saturday, including the Harrier Club of America National Specialty.

Obedience and rally trials also take place Thursday, Friday, Sunday and Monday, and mixed breed dogs are welcome at the trials in addition to purebreds. On Saturday some of the specialty clubs offer obedience and rally as well.

The success of the shows begins with the Alameda County Fairgrounds in Pleasanton, Calif. The 267-acre grounds are beautifully maintained with park-like green spaces surrounding strategically placed buildings that don’t overpower the outdoor areas. Some judging takes place indoors, primarily for smaller breeds, while other rings are set up under giant shade trees on grass.

Many rings are set off by themselves, or in clusters of two, three or four. This means exhibitors have space near the rings to set up, and with so many breed clubs participating with specialty shows and supported entries, they have plenty of room to set up tables for raffles and luncheons and such. You really can’t beat the weather in Northern California any time of year, and it’s positively gorgeous in October.

The Irish Setter ring at Del Valle.

The cluster has created a special competition for junior handlers called the Harvest Moon Junior Classic. Recognition of the importance of the young people to the future of the sport starts with the fact that Junior Showmanship competition at the Skyline and Del Valle shows are offered at no entry fee. Then all Junior Showmanship winners from the Thursday, Friday and Sunday all-breed shows, as well as Best Junior Handler winners from Saturday specialties, will compete again on Sunday afternoon.

A panel of three judges will score all of the competitors, and the top six finalists will be announced, with the Grand Best Junior awarded at the end. Jamie Souza Bartlett has generously donated for the winner a round trip plane ticket to either the 2012 AKC/Eukanuba show in Orlando or to Westminster 2013, as well as an iPad2.

On Saturday evening, fanciers will have a special treat when the Comedy Night at the Harvest Moon Classic takes place on the show grounds, to include cocktails, dinner, silent and live auctions and a comedy show by professional funny folks Jeff Applebaum, Kellen Erskine and Tim Babb.

The Del Valle weekend has included a Take the Lead event for many years, and the addition of a comedy show will no doubt make the evening that much more fun and relaxing for all who attend. Reservations can be secured by calling or emailing Take the Lead at 800-814-1123 or www.takethelead.org.

Making Life ‘Richer’ for Exhibitors

The Skyline and Del Valle shows are sponsored by Evanger’s Dog and Cat Food Company. Based in Illinois, Evanger’s is a family-owned and -operated company that has been making dog food since 1935. The company donates one full year of dog food to the Best in Show winners at all four all-breed shows, along with various combinations of dry and canned food and Evanger’s coupons for Group placements, Junior Showmanship winners and the High Scoring Dogs in the obedience competitions.

On Saturday, in addition to the specialties, Skyline holds a B match with prizes almost better than at the all-breed shows: $250 in cash, donated by Mike and Connie Clark, plus an Isle of Dogs basket of grooming products valued at $50, and dog food and coupons donated by Evanger’s. That’s a haul! All Group placements in the match will also receive Isle of Dogs products and Evanger’s food and coupons. Puppies from 4 months up to 12 months can be entered.

One of the handy perks at these shows is that the clubs set up bathtubs at various locations around the grounds for exhibitors to use. Another draw, this one for judges, at least the rookies, is a one-day AKC Institute for Aspiring and Newly Approved Judges, held on Saturday at the Jockey Club on the fairgrounds. Did I mention that there are lots of great stands for shopping and eating on the show grounds? Such a variety of vendors will be there that you can find almost any dog-related product you can imagine.

The International Canine Semen Bank will be on hand for semen collection and freezing and other DNA services. New exhibitor briefings will take place Thursday, Friday, Sunday and Monday.

Four agility trials also take place during the cluster, hosted on Friday and Monday by the Northern California Bearded Collie Fanciers and on Saturday and Sunday by Del Valle. All breeds and All-American dogs are welcome to participate.

It’s true that if you’re a handler with many different breeds, or a spectator who wants to watch competition in many different rings, you’ll be in for a lot of walking over five days. But there are always trade-offs when you have shows as wonderful as those on the Del Valle weekend. It’s a terrific opportunity to watch large, quality entries in many breeds or, if you’re competing, to go against the best and pick up some serious points.

If you’d like for us to report on what’s coming up at your show, please email me at Christi@bestinshowdaily.com.