As I reviewed the results this week, I was reminded of one aspect of the sport I have not really participated in – the extended road trip. I am, by nature, lazy. Well, my wife thinks I am lazy. I like to think I use my resources efficiently. Accordingly, when I take in a dog show cluster, I usually reserve my time for those clusters that take place at one site. However, today exhibitors merrily embark on multiple-site road trips.
When I first started showing seriously, in the early 1970s, four-show clusters were a rare thing. The sport was mostly owner-handlers, and most of those owner-handlers had jobs and/or families that consumed most of the weekdays. Thanks to the 1968 Uniform Monday Act, four of those weekends were expanded to three days each year. A fifth was added in 1983 with the recognition of Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday. The one cluster in that day was a loosely organized two weeks of shows in Florida in January. The show was attended by professionals, retirees, the independently wealthy and those who could take their annual two-week vacation in January. Today the Florida Circuit is comprised of two clusters, the eight-show Florida Gulf Coast Cluster and the four-show Gat-R-Don Cluster, over a 17-day stretch in mid-January. It really can’t be properly dubbed a dog show road trip as all 12 shows take place at the Greater Ocala Dog Show Grounds, a park specifically created for dog shows.
Dog shows, like most hobbies these days, have now diversified to serve multiple levels of participants. No longer must we be weekend warriors and make do with the Saturday/Sunday fare enlivened by the occasional national holiday. These days more consumed exhibitors can pack up the RV and travel, gypsy-like, from locale to locale, sampling shows almost any day of the week. Today it is a rare weekend that there isn’t at least one Thursday through Sunday, four-show cluster. We now see with increasing frequency five-show offerings on those federal holiday weekends.
The weekend after the Westminster Kennel Club show, winter weary exhibitors return to Florida for what I have called the Florida Caravan, an 11-show, four-location trek through the Sunshine State. It starts in Lakeland FL with the Strawberry Cluster, four shows held Friday through Monday, followed by four shows in Tallahassee the following Thursday through Sunday, hosted by the Greater Panama City Dog Fanciers Association and the Ochlockonee River Kennel Club of Florida. Three days later, it’s off to Fort Walton Beach for two days with the Okaloosa Kennel Club, followed by two days with the Pensacola Dog Fanciers Association in their hometown.
If you prefer the great outdoors, you can’t beat this month’s visit to Idaho and Montana. It started on June 11th, just two days after the end of the Woofstock Cluster, in Filer ID, stop A above, where the Snake River Canyon Kennel Club of Idaho was set up for two days. Then it was back in the RV for the 150-mile trek to Blackfoot ID for four days with the Eagle Rock Kennel Club and Pocatello Kennel Club. You had all day Monday to drive the 360 miles to Billings MT for the Yellowstone Valley Kennel Club’s opener yesterday. After three days with YVKC, it’s off to Great Falls MT 180 miles away for two days with the Electric City Kennel Club. It’s another 175 miles to join the Five Valley Kennel Club in Missoula MT, our final destination on the Idaho/Montana Marathon. That’s 14 shows in just 15 days. If you started with the Woofstock Cluster in Vallejo CA on the shores of the San Francisco Bay, you got in 18 shows in 20 days, the doggy equivalent of an Iron Man Triathlon.
I really can’t think of a better way to spend my summer vacation than driving through Northern California, Nevada, Idaho and Montana, a drive that brings a dramatic panorama around every bend in the road. The only question I have is how do I get back home from Missoula MT? And that’s today’s Back Story.