Usually in Monday’s Fancy That I report on what happened over the previous weekend at dog shows, but today I want to tell you about an upcoming cluster that deserves recognition instead.
As reported in Shows Closing last week, quite a few great clusters happen on the Memorial Day weekend, among them the five all-breed shows that make up the Memorial Weekend Classic hosted by the Laurel Highlands Kennel Association and the Trumbull and New Castle Kennel Clubs Thursday, May 23, 2013, through Monday, May 27, at the Lawrence County Farm Show Grounds, in New Castle, Pa. This cluster is preceded by the four Mountaineer Spring Classic shows, three hours south in Marietta, Ohio, and followed by the Southern Tier Area Cluster, four shows in Dunkirk, N.Y., just two hours northeast of New Castle.
The entire cluster this year is dedicated to the memory of Tom Glassford, the successful professional handler who, upon his retirement from the ring in 1997, became an AKC field rep. Tommy was well-known and well-loved in the sport, in particular in the Ohio-Pennsylvania area where he and his wife, Andrea, were based and showed dogs for many years. “It’s hard to put into words how much Tommy meant to us and to our cluster,” says show chairman and second vice president for the New Castle KC, Jim Martin. “The best way to explain it is to tell you that Tommy was a true dog man through all aspects of showing dogs. He was a friend to everybody, whether handler, exhibitor, judge or junior, and whether they were new or had been around a long time.”
No Show Without the Exhibitors
This is one cluster that goes to great lengths to be sure the exhibitors are happy and know that they’re valued. “We appreciate the exhibitors, and we try to do everything we can for them because without them we wouldn’t have a dog show,” says Jim. “We try to always give back to the exhibitors.”
This philosophy is projected by the clubs and their members in so many ways. Because Tom Glassford was very supportive of junior handlers, and as Jim says, they were one of his “pet projects,” the cluster will not only continue to hold a “Junior Handler Clinic with the Professionals,” conducted by the AKC Registered Handler program, they will also offer Junior Showmanship during their cluster for no entry fee from now on, in Tommy’s memory. He will be remembered in a more tangible way as well. “Tommy’s first breed was Irish Setters, so this year I talked to Andrea and we went out and had an Irish Setter trophy made,” Jim says. “It says ‘Best Junior Handler – In Honor of Tommy Glassford.’” Andrea will present the trophy to the winner at the Saturday New Castle show this year.
The clubs show equal appreciation for grown-up exhibitors. It begins with the fact that they’ve kept their entry fees among the lowest in the country at $25, and offer a further break, down to $18, for Bred-by-Exhibitor and Puppy class entries. “We have low entry fees, and we’re still making money,” says Jim. “You’d be surprised how many times exhibitors have told me that the only reason they entered so many dogs, or entered puppies in the Puppy class, is because our entry fees are so low.”
Every single day of the cluster the clubs have some sort of special treat to show further appreciation for the people who come to the shows. They serve free coffee and donuts every day. On Thursday Laurel Highlands will serve free hot dogs and sauerkraut during Group judging. On Friday Trumbull County will serve popcorn during the finals judging, followed by a corn roast for all who want to attend after Best in Show. On Saturday New Castle again offers hot dogs and sauerkraut during Groups, and after the show is over there will be karaoke and free pizza. On Sunday Trumbull will provide cheese and crackers during Group judging. Who could ask for anything more?
But there is more, a lot more. The show grounds are large and spread out, so the clubs rent two six-passenger golf carts. One cart takes judges where they need to go, and the other sports signs that say, “Exhibitor Taxi,” and is available to take a handler or exhibitor to a distant ring, to take people to their cars or to transport spectators when necessary. Golf carts are also available for rental.
The parking fee for RVs is just $25 with hookups. This year the clubs will also put up a run, approximately 200 feet by 300 feet, so people can give their dogs a chance to stretch their legs off lead during the cluster. They’ll have a 10-minute limit per person if there are people waiting. Otherwise folks can use it as long as they’d like.
The proceeds from a B match on Friday evening will be donated to Take the Lead. The local Golden Triangle Irish Setter Club will hold a silent auction and raffles. The cluster will have a raffle item too. “This year we purchased one of those portable bathtubs, and we’re going to ask all the vendors to donate something, which we’ll put in the tub and then we’ll raffle it off,” Jim reports. “That money will go to the George Ward foundation in Tommy’s name.”
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The cluster includes heart and eye clinics, microchipping, breed seminars for judges, a free taxes and bookkeeping seminar hosted by the AKC Registered Handlers Program, and semen collection and DNA testing by the International Canine Semen Bank. Of benefit to everyone at the show, Friday evening will find a meeting, open to all, of the Pennsylvania Federation of Dog Clubs. The Pennsylvania Dog Warden Supervisor will be on hand to discuss current kennel regulations and dog laws, and PFDC officers will discuss pending legislation as well as the Pennsylvania State Animal Response Team and animal emergency planning.
It’s no wonder that, as Jim says, “Every year our entry goes up or stays about the same. When I started with the show, our entry on Saturday was 1,200 to 1,300 dogs. Last year on Saturday our entry was just shy of 2,000 dogs,” he says. “We had the Kerry Blue and Scottie Nationals last year, so this year we expect 1,800 to 1,900 dogs.” While the majority of clubs have found entry numbers plunging over the past few years, exhibitors seem to be rewarding these hardworking clubs with more entries.
Working with Others to Strengthen the Cluster
These clubs don’t just work hard to satisfy exhibitors. They’ve also made it a point to work cooperatively with the fairgrounds and local businesses. “We work well with the fair people, and every year we donate money back to them,” says Jim. “In turn, every year they do something new for us. It’s a cooperative thing, so they do things that are helpful for our shows.”One year fairground management installed 30 complete hookups with water and electric, and other years they remodeled bathrooms and installed a concrete floor under one open-air pavilion, among other improvements.
The show committees for the Memorial Classic also want to make sure that businesses in the community will be happy to see dog show participants come back in the future, so Jim makes it a point to talk with someone at all of the local hotels before the cluster begins. “I give them my name and cell phone number, and I tell them that if they have any problem with a dog destroying something, to give me a call right away,” he says. “I make sure to tell them not to wait until the show is over, but to call me right away. Then I just tell the exhibitor that they have to take care of the problem or we’ll have to call a bench show hearing.” In the past, hotels have stopped accepting dogs because of the behavior of a few bad apples, but this allows the clubs to help prevent that from happening. “We also let the local convenience stores know that there’s a dog show going on and they might want to stock up on ice,” Jim says, “so they’ll have a big enough supply and can do more business.”
The cluster also includes the names and dates of the shows before and after theirs, calling the 13 shows in 18 days the “Spring Circuit” and listing some of the perks of attending the other weekends in their premium list.
This is clearly one group of clubs that has learned that attention to detail, cooperation and showing appreciation all reap big rewards. But as Jim says, without the exhibitors, there would be no dog show at all, so “The most important thing is taking care of the exhibitors.” That’s a philosophy that I know dog people really appreciate.