A few weeks ago, just over two months from the date that entries were to close for its September 21, and 22, 2013, shows, Southern California’s Santa Ana Valley Kennel Club was notified by representatives at their show site that the price for renting the venue would increase this year from $7,500 to $9,000.
As anyone who’s been part of putting on a dog show can imagine, this sent club members involved with putting on the show into a bit of a tailspin. One of the keys to having a great event is, of course, advanced planning, and venues, judges, accommodations and many other aspects of holding a dog show are planned a year or more out. Unfortunately, finding a new venue for the Santa Ana shows on such short notice proved an impossible obstacle to overcome.
The board of directors had no choice but to vote to cancel the 2013 shows, although that was the last thing the board members wanted to do. The club has held shows for more than 60 years. “Our members devote a lot of time to putting the shows together and, among other things, go to a great deal of effort to create good judging panels and to get different judges each year,” says club President Bill Minninsohn. According to Minninsohn, the club only made $800 on last year’s show, so it works under a strict budget and the added $1,500 was out of the question. “We looked at alternative sites, but they were either out of our price range or the sites were not available for our dates.”
Show chairman and club Vice President Dean Langwiser said what’s most disheartening about the recent events is that a fellow fancier may be at least partially responsible for the increase in fees at the Richard Gahr High School in Cerritos, Calif., where the club has held its shows the past few years.
It seems that the high school also rents its facilities to a soccer team, and when Santa Ana Valley KC club officials arrived at the venue last year to prepare for the weekend, they found two porta-potties on site that Langwiser says were “in terrible condition.” Naturally the club had arranged to provide its own bathroom facilities. “We pushed those two porta-potties up against a wall and tied rope around them so people couldn’t get into them,” he says. “We had our own dozen porta-potties and cleaning stations, plus the school’s restrooms, available.” But the individual in question, “broke into” the barricaded units, Langwiser says, and, finding the conditions unacceptable, allegedly went to the local department of health. “He had contacted us in the past because, I believe, he wanted to be our go-to person to determine how many porta-potties and cleaning stations we need and that sort of thing, but we’ve declined his offers.” Langwiser points out that, had the exhibitor talked with officials on the day of the show, this unfortunate consequence might not have occurred. “This got the school in trouble, and he tried to get our club in trouble,” Langwiser says. “As a result the school is no longer willing to rent the grounds to our club unless they can raise their rates to cover any legal trouble they may come across. I can’t understand why someone…would do something like that rather than going through the proper channels and at least talking to the show chairman, a club member or the superintendent.”
The loss of the high school does have at least one positive consequence. “The last few years it has been very hot,” Minninsohn explains, “so we’ll be looking for an indoor venue with air conditioning.” Minninsohn and Langwiser report that the club is looking at the Orange County fairgrounds. This site was contacted after the problem came up this year and was “found to be reasonably priced,” but was not available for the necessary dates. “If things work out and the club in that territory agrees to it, we hope to go to the fairgrounds,” Langwiser said. “We’d like to join another club, but if there’s not another club available to share a site with us for a four-day cluster, we’ll just do it for the weekend.”
The club is also considering adding agility to its shows. As clubs have discovered in these challenging economic times, it is more and more difficult to put on a show and keep the finances in the black. “We lost Purina’s sponsorship five or six years ago, which just makes it a little harder,” says Langwiser. “We used to never charge for parking, and we were one of the few clubs that didn’t raise entry fees. We were charging the same as we had charged back in about 2000, but once we lost the sponsorship we had to raise our entry fees and begin charging for parking.” With interest high in agility, the hope is that adding the performance event would increase entries at the shows and help the club meet its expenses.
Club officers and members look forward to putting on nice shows in the future, and in particular are looking forward to being back in operation in 2014. Thankfully the hotels and dining facilities that had taken deposits for the 2013 shows agreed to refund them, and the judges agreed to officiate at the club’s next shows. The kennel club has supported both the welfare of dogs and its community in the past, making donations to the AKC Canine Health Foundation, the California Federation of Dog Clubs and the Gahr High School Parents Booster Club. It plans on continuing this in the future as well. “We’ll look forward to putting on good dog shows for many years to come,” Langwiser says.