The big question on everyone’s mind right up until late Sunday night has been answered, “How do you think the show will go this year now that it’s being held at two separate locations?”
Beautifully, cavernously and tiringly well.
As exhibitors awoke today to prepare their dogs and themselves for the journey home, the memories of this year’s Westminster are becoming part of our collective dog show memory. Despite the challenge of putting on the world’s most recognized celebration of purebred dogs in two separate locations in the heart of the Big Apple, Show Chairman Tom Bradley and his committee’s officers, staff and volunteers gave us an event that retained the show’s magic while improving our experience of it.
Last night’s crowd at Madison Square Garden – close to capacity as far as I could tell – seemed especially pleased to be back in the familiar seats to watch the Groups, and few had harsh words of criticism about the setting at Piers 92/94 where the breed winners were chosen earlier in the day.
Exhibitors, spectators (and even the dogs, I think) welcomed the piers’ spacious benching areas, high ceilings with natural and artificial lighting, moderate-to-large ring sizes, attentive staff to be found in virtually every direction and, of course, beautiful dogs to watch as their handlers met in some seriously competitive breed rings. On these points, the show did not disappoint.
Crowds numbering four, five and six people deep surrounded most of the show’s 12 rings, with little of the jostling that came with daytime judging at the Garden. The piers themselves were transformed with dazzling purple and green carpet, and the battleship gray of the buildings’ structure and mechanical systems was generally concealed with white walls adorned with photos of past Westminster winners, perhaps encompassing images of every dog that’s ever won at this show.
The surprise of finding it necessary to travel by elevator between the two piers was but a hiccup, as the large capacity cabs, manned by friendly and helpful attendants, kept everyone moving with surprising efficiency.
Due to the football field size of the piers and the acres upon acres of benching assembled for the dogs and their exhibitors, some handlers did miss ring times, I’m told. Those with whom I spoke seemed disappointed at this, as would be expected, but there was none of the exasperation that usually comes with such mishaps. Perhaps it will be necessary to bring along more assistants next year.
For those handlers with multiple dogs, getting to ring locations in separate buildings is not all that unusual at large shows. However, what might make things more manageable at the piers next year would be to have two or three times as many potty stations for the comfort and convenience of the dogs.
Although seating was provided around each ring, it would have been nice to provide bench seating of some kind along the perimeter walls in both the general public aisles and the handlers’ holding area. We all accept having to stand to watch our favorite dogs compete, but having places to sit down and catch up with old friends would certainly be welcomed next year.
Traveling to and from Piers 92/94 to the Garden and between hotels was managed efficiently through the use of buses large and small. Some folks hailed taxis to get around, while others hopped into those “iffy” cars for hire. On one occasion, I walked from the piers to the Garden along the West Side Highway just to get some fresh air along the Hudson River while reviewing voice mails. After all there’s nothing quite like multitasking along the city’s busy streets to remind you that you’re in New York.