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Westminster 2013 Considered a Success by Most

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.

Banana Joe the Affenpinscher enjoys the media attention from the floor of Madison Square Garden following his Westminster victory. Photo by Dan Sayers.

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.

Written by

Dan Sayers started “in dogs” through a chance encounter with a Springer Spaniel in 1980. A student of dogs ever since, he’s shown Spaniels and Hounds in the conformation ring and breeds Irish Water Spaniels under the Quiet Storm prefix. A dog lover with a passion for the creative arts, Dan has worked as a freelance writer, photographer and illustrator for many years. His feature articles and columns have appeared in Dogs in Review, Dog World and the AKC Gazette, and his design work has appeared in dozens of publications in North America and abroad. An interest in all things “dog” brought Dan to Best In Show Daily, where he gets to work with the most dynamic group of fanciers every day. He lives in Merchantville, New Jersey, with his partner, Rudy Raya, Irish Water Spaniel, Kurre, and the memory of Oscar, a once-in-a-lifetime Sussex Spaniel.
  • Lynda Beam (Canine Candids by Lynda) February 13, 2013 at 11:00 AM

    I told me last weekend at Indy to just wait and see before being all gloomy. Since then I’ve talked to some people that were there and they said the pros outweighed the cons. I’m really hoping to get out there next year :)

  • Judy Silker February 13, 2013 at 2:20 PM

    I was pleasantly surprised by the new venue at the Piers. Unloading and loading was a breeze. It was great to be able to park right on site. Since it was just my dog and I making the trip, I admit to being worried about how I would manage. The benching areas were spacious compared to the Garden and the building temperature was comfortable. Getting to my ring was not a problem. Purina had a wonderful hospitality room with food and beverages available to Pro Club members. Although my dog did not win, the long hours after showing were not nearly as dreadful as they used to be. The earlier release time was appreciated by all. I give the Piers two thumbs up and kudos to the club for coming up with an exhibitor friendly site in the city.

  • Collin February 13, 2013 at 7:23 PM

    Considering the the vast seating area in Madison Square Garden, partially filled with spectators all day long in years past, had to be sacrificed in the move to 92/94, it makes sense that bleachers of some sort would be needed, and there’s certainly room for that at the piers. Still, the powers that be are to be commended for their efforts this year.

  • William I. Christensen February 14, 2013 at 12:35 PM

    I agree that the viewing experience for most would be improved by some type of stadium seating or bleachers. Standing behind a row three or four people deep does not permit optimal (or any) viewing.
    With regard to seating, it would be helpful if there were adequate chairs for those of us who may be older or infirm and can find no where to sit once the breed judging begins. Ditto for the bus transportation, where climbing into and out of the back door of the bus, especially trying to hoist dogs and equipment up or down is just plain hazardous. Given that this is a public event, I am surprised that ADA issues do not come into play.
    The toilet situation was much better for the exhibitors (I applaud the fancy mobile rest room outside the multi-benching section) than for the dogs, many of whom “lost it” while waiting in the interminably long lines.
    The larger rings (as compared with the previous few years) allowed the dogs to actually exhibit movement, without interfering with the other exhibitors.

  • Patricia February 15, 2013 at 11:00 AM

    This was my first experience with showing at Westminster and I was pleased with the Pier 94… I do have a few suggestions… First use stadium style seating at the rings along the back wall in addition to the chairs it would make the viewing much more enjoyable. Second choose a new food vendor, the food was fair and not much choice…. Third… have a coffee/espresso vendor… at both the Philadelphia and Secaucus shows you could get a cappuccino or espresso…

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