Westminster Kennel Club 2012 Breed Judging

As I await my plane to take me to California for a week of peace, love & dogs with the four-show cluster known as Woofstock, I am thinking of how this hippie-themed canine fun fest reached the level of “marquee.” Marquee shows are shows that everyone has heard of, that draw dogs from across the country, even across the globe, mostly large, sometimes televised, and usually well established.

At 5 years old, Woofstock cannot rival the 138-year history of the Westminster Kennel Club. But then again, who can? Nor is it televised like Westminster, the AKC/Eukanuba National Championship or the Thanksgiving staple, the National Dog show hosted by the Kennel Club of Philadelphia. However, it has drawn 2,500 dogs from all over the US to its Saturday offering this year. I think it’s time we deem Woofstock a must-do stop on the calendar.

I have tried to hit as many of the marquee shows over the last two years as I could, but I am like most fanciers and have limited resources. Here are some of the marquee shows I have done recently, arranged by date.

The Kennel Club of Palm Springs has the enviable distinction of owning the first weekend of the year, one of the largest entries to be seen all year, and an incredibly beautiful venue, the polo fields in Indio CA, surrounded by palm trees and mountains. Like most of our major stops, the entry no longer hovers around 4,000, but it does come in close to 3,000, big by today’s standards. Supported by some of the biggest specialties and limited breed shows, I think Palm Springs is the perfect way to start the year.

In mid-January Portland OR has the Rose City Classic hosted by the Tualatin Kennel Club and the Dog Fanciers Association of Oregon. The cluster is one of the five largest every year, and with four all-breed shows in the 2,500-dog range, it always draws well. While it does get dogs from everywhere, it also has the distinction of world class dogs that never leave the Pacific Northwest. At the end of the month, the big points are in Conyers GA, 25 miles east of Atlanta. The Cherokee Rose Cluster of dog shows boasts four big all-breed shows hosted by the Swanee Mountain Kennel Club of Georgia, the Lawrenceville Kennel Club and the Conyers Kennel Club of Georgia. Centrally located and easily accessible by plane, the cluster draws well enough to be among the top 10 on the calendar.

While everyone recognizes Westminster Kennel Club as the quintessential marquee show, few note that it has its own satellites that offer opportunities for big points before and after the Garden Party. Indianapolis is a convenient spot for exhibitors to stop on their way to New York, and the Central Indiana Kennel Club’s & the Hoosier Kennel Club’s four all-breed shows offer way more points than the two-day grand dame does. Similarly Denver offers West Coast exhibitors and others an attractive place to drop in for the Plum Creek Kennel Club’s & Colorado Kennel Club’s four shows, just two days after Westminster. What can one say about the venerable Westminster Kennel Club show? At 137 years, the second longest continuously running sporting event in America…3,200 dogs from all over the globe…the largest television audience of any dog show…and, oh yeah, it’s in New York City!

February ends with the International Kennel Club of Chicago’s two days in the Windy City. Preceded by the Park Shore Kennel Club & Blackhawk Kennel Club all-breed shows, the IKCC benched shows no longer draw Top 25 entries, but they still get good local press coverage and draw nearly 2,000 dogs each day. In mid-March serious exhibitors head for Louisville KY and the Ketuckiana Cluster. Three of the top five drawing shows in AKC each year are part of the cluster. With better than 16,000 points up for grabs, this is a must-do cluster. Now it is clear to me and my chief financial officer (my wife, Brenda) that that’s a whole lot of travel in the first 10 weeks of the year. Most of us do not have the cash or stamina to keep that pace.

While there are plenty of beautiful venues and respectable point counts during the spring, we have to wait until July for mega-marquee clusters, coast to coast. Early in July, fanciers flock to the Ventura County Fairgrounds & Seaside Park in Ventura CA for three Oceanside shows. Even if the Channel City Kennel Club, the Santa Maria Kennel Club & the Ventura County Dog Fanciers Association did not draw 2,000 dogs a show, the show site itself would be enough to qualify it for marquee status. The Reliant Park World Series of Dog Shows in Houston in mid-July, with a plethora of big specialties and limited-breed shows, and the Beaumont Kennel Club, the Houston Kennel Club & the Galveston Kennel Club all-breed shows, will all draw some of the biggest entries this year. July ends with the Carolina Foothills cluster hosted by the Hendersonville Kennel Club, the Greenville Kennel Club & Spartanburg Kennel Club. Saturday’s HKC show is among the largest 25 shows in the nation.

The big points in August are in Canfield OH where the Fort Steuben Kennel Association, the Columbiana County Kennel Club, the Beaver County Kennel Club & the Mahoning-Shenango Kennel Club will draw 7,500 dogs. In Enumclaw WA, the Olympic Kennel Club’s two shows will draw even bigger daily entries. 2012 saw Sporting Group entries go over 600 dogs. Now that’s huge. The Saturday shows ranks as the 17th largest single show in the US.

The next don’t-miss stop is Montgomery County weekend. Four days caravaning around suburban Philadelphia for the Hatboro Dog Club’s two shows in Wrightstown PA, the Devon Dog Show Association show in Ludwigs Corner PA and the Terrier Super Bowl, the Montgomery County Kennel Club show in Bluebell PA. While the three all-breed entries will be respectable, only the Terrier groups will be big, and they will be huge, over 1,000 at the all-breed shows, and better than 1,500 at the MCKC main event. Nowhere will you see more quality Terriers, and you will rub shoulders with legends that only come out once a year.

My next pick for a marquee show is the Kennel Club of Philadelphia’s in early November. While it no longer draws huge entries and many of our top dogs bypass the opportunity, only at the National Dog Show can your Thanksgiving Day guests watch you and your dog on TV. That moment is golden. The year ends with two competing clusters. The AKC/Eukanuba National Championship is the official end of the show year, but the AENC is preceded by three giant all-breed shows. The 2012 final at the Wednesday show of the Space Coast Kennel Club Of Palm Bay ranks as one of my most memorable dog show moments. Each of the seven dogs were the Number One Dog in their respective groups. The Sporting Group saw the Number One Dog & Number Two Dog All Breeds face off with all the other Top Ten Sporting Dogs. It was glorious.

Unfortunately, many of the top-ranked dogs skipped out and went to Cleveland where the two all-breed shows on Saturday & Sunday offered more points than did the AENC which was spread over two days similar to Westminster. My advice, if you want to see the best AKC has to offer, is don’t skip Wednesday in Orlando.

I will wait until next week to decide if Woofstock has reached marquee status. I will try to be at as many of these shows as I can in the coming years. Hopefully my chief financial officer will agree. And that’s today’s Back Story.