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What Makes a Marquee Show?

GCH CH Jaset's Satisfaction, 2012 AKC/Eukanuba National Champion

It’s been my goal since beginning my blog, Dog Show Poop, to get out around the country to see the country’s best dogs, and meet and learn from the country’s most knowledgeable dog folk. I have been focusing on the “marquee shows.” I define marquee shows as those which historically draw the nation’s top dogs year after year. Sometimes the draw is based on sheer numbers, and sometimes the draw is based on prestige. Today I want to focus on the two most prestigious events in the U.S.

Earlier this month, AKC announced that the 2012 December’s AKC/Eukanuba National Championship show will include class dogs. This came a couple of months after the Westminster Kennel Club announced that its 2013 show would take entries from class dogs that had already been awarded a major toward their championship. I have to admit that my first reactions to these announcements were negative. I am not a big fan of change. After all, I have served the same menu at Thanksgiving for over 30 years, have the complete set of “The Thin Man” on DVD, and won’t drink a cocktail that didn’t exist in 1965.

My objection to the Westminster changes was not because of the proposed admission of class dogs. That was not a departure from tradition, but a return to it. Westminster used to allow class dogs. I showed one of my Maltese, Bar-None the Pooh Bear, in the Open Dog class at the 100th anniversary show in 1976. My initial objection was the split venue with all the benching and breed judging to be done at Piers 92/94 on the Hudson at 52nd Street and the group and Best In Show judging at the original Madison Square Garden site.

GCH CH PalaceGarden Malachy, 2012 Westminster KC BIS

As I have written before, any inconvenience experienced moving from the piers to the Garden will be more than offset by the roomier and far more pleasant spaces at the piers. Both exhibitors and spectators will benefit immensely. The big payoff comes in the increased entry with a new limit of 3,200 dogs. More exhibitors will get to experience the thrill of showing at Westminster, and there will be more dogs for the public to drool over. I am now a convert.

For the past couple of years, I have been beating the drum for the AKC/Eukanuba National Championship. At just a decade old, the AENC can’t boast the tradition of Westminster’s 137 years of glamour, but it has some distinct advantages over its older sister. First, the return to Orlando, FL, was a stroke of genius. Orlando is far easier to get to for most exhibitors and, as America’s number one tourist destination, much more spectator-friendly. The venue, the Orange County Convention Center, is as good as it gets in the dog world, easily accommodating multiple competitions and exhibits. No other location in the U.S. offers as many options in lodging, dining & entertainment. Then there’s the prize money. No other dog show comes close. The prize money, three huge all-breed warmups & the addition of class competition should make this the largest dog show weekend in the U.S.

The question I initially had was what happens to the exclusivity of the AKC/Eukanuba National Championship? As it was elegantly explained to me, the focus is on inclusiveness. The AENC offers the public and fanciers the chance to see multiple AKC disciplines under one roof. In addition to the country’s largest conformation show, there are the AKC Agility Invitational and National Obedience Invitational, the Bred-By Exhibitor competition, the Eukanuba World Challenge, AKC Meet the Breeds and the Eukanuba Breeders Stakes. The addition of class dogs simply allows more people to participate. I like that. I will be in Orlando in December. I hope you will be too. And that’s today’s Back Story.

Written by

Billy Wheeler has been attending dog shows as a spectator and exhibitor for over 40 years. Billy is the man behind the popular Dog Show Poop. He is a retired management consultant who has advised multiple organizations affiliated with the AKC and the Cat Fanciers Association on business management, long range planning, customer service, and legislative matters. After 25 years of living in the big cities of New York, San Francisco, and Washington, DC, he now resides in his hometown of Memphis TN with his wife, Brenda, her Toy Poodle and his Cairn, Scottie, & IG. When he is not blogging, Billy can be found in the kitchen cooking, and listening to opera.
  • Skandia April 24, 2012 at 12:57 PM

    I can’t believe you can ignore the whole western half of the US by saying that the Orlando show is easier to get to for “most exhibitors”. Talk about not being included!!!

    • Billy Wheeler
      Billy Wheeler April 24, 2012 at 7:18 PM

      According to the 2010 US Census “most” of the US population lives east of Oklahoma City. As I have written here a surprising 60 percent of Americans now live in the South or Midwest.

    • Colllin April 25, 2012 at 6:52 AM

      In spite of the technicality that the majority of Americans live east of Oklahoma City, there’s obviously a huge contingent of active AKC breeders, exhibitors and handlers who live WEST of the middle of the country, and it is just wrong to have the two most important shows of the year on the East Coast.
      And regarding the statement that “No other location in the U.S. offers as many options in lodging, dining and entertainment…” Are you kidding? That’s balderdash. Many U.S. cities offer a plethora of options in all three categories. Southern California is one of the most visited vacation spots in the world.
      AKC, in my opinion, should rotate its show from one coast to the other, in fairness to all of its constituents, especially since its greatest rival is an East Coast staple. One year in Orlando, the next year in Long Beach would be the perfect solution.

  • Sonya Henderson,Raynics Bassets April 25, 2012 at 8:25 AM

    I readily recognized the word that took me back to my college days as I was a thespian and a singer . I suppose it was a natural move to the center of the ring when I became a judge for my breed and also all Junior Showmanship classes. I am still always happiest when I am showing off the dogs I bred that I bred,even if they are not the judges “pick” for that day.

  • Dannielle April 25, 2012 at 9:07 AM

    welcome to the “every kid gets a trophy” generation

    this new policy undermines the achievements of the invited dogs who were required to make specific accomplishments for the “honor” of an invitation.

  • Linda Fitzmaurice, JavaHill April 25, 2012 at 10:15 AM

    From my experience, it wasn’t a bad location except for where the evening performances were held, which was pitiful. That exhibitors now have to pay big bucks to see their own dogs, or juniors get SRO, is a slap in the face. It was also the worst stadium seating I’ve ever sat in. There’s no perfect location, but if they were really concerned about INclusiveness, they need to keep looking…Vegas, St. Louis, other hubs.

    Regardless, a lot of us disagree with you. The prestige is far lessened with what they’ve done. But this will save many of us West (wrong) Coasters a lot of money!

  • Larkin Vonalt June 22, 2012 at 8:12 PM

    Eukanuba was on the west coast every year since January 2006 when it was last held in Tampa. It’s your turn to come east folks– at least for the next five years. I too am disappointed by the “inclusion” though– it’s just another oversize show with enough politics to choke a horse.

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