On Friday, July 27, 2012, in Waukesha, Wis., the big “Waukesha Weekend” begins, and it is the place to be for fanciers in the upper Midwest this month.

The Waukesha Kennel Club hosts all-breed shows on Saturday and Sunday at the Waukesha County Expo Center, and this year the club is celebrating its 51st year.

A Couple’s Legacy

“My parents helped found the Waukesha Kennel Club in their living room in the 1960s,” says Esme Treen Gibson, daughter of Al and Esme Treen. The Treens had begun breeding Dalmatians in 1950. Esme was the show chairman for the Waukesha KC for 28 years, and Al served as WKC club president and delegate for 30 years. Both Al and Esme eventually became popular judges. Al also served on the AKC Board of Directors. Esme was given the Outstanding Sportsmanship Award in 2007 from the Waukesha KC.

Al Treen in the late 1970s or early ‘80s presenting a trophy at Waukesha Kennel Club. Photo courtesy of Esme Treen Gibson.

“WKC was pretty much the baby of Al and Esme Treen,” says current show chair Mareth Kipp. “They established the club and created the foundation for the shows that we still follow today.”

Al Treen passed away in June 2005, followed in March 2009 by Esme, but their club still hosts what is one of the most popular show weekends in the region.

Esme Treen in the 1970s with actress Betty White, who since 1971 has served as a trustee of the Morris Animal Foundation. Photo courtesy of Esme Treen Gibson.

A Recipe for Success

Originally, WKC was a one-day show, and the Kettle Moraine Kennel Club hosted their companion show. When KMKC moved to its present location in West Bend, Wis., about 15 years ago, WKC decided to hold back-to-back shows. “Part of what makes our cluster so successful is the fact that the Friday prior to our weekend, the Combined Specialty Clubs of Greater Milwaukee hold their shows,” Mareth says. “Their entry is generally over 1,000, so you can see that’s an added benefit to the WKC weekend.”

On Friday this year, CSCGM hosts specialty shows for 18 breeds, and four breeds – Boxers, Dobermans, Chihuahuas and Min Pins – have two specialties on Friday.

Working together, the two groups are able to build the best possible judging panels. “We work with the clubs in Combined in an attempt to utilize some of the same judges,” says Mareth. “We listen to their suggestions, and if they fit with our judges selection committee, we use them as well, if they can do other breeds.”

Waukesha KC is generous when it comes to working with the Combined Specialties club. “If they choose a judge from our panel, WKC picks up the airfare and the Combined club is only responsible for one night’s lodging plus meals, plus whatever fee is agreed upon between the club and the judge. This gives some of the smaller specialty clubs an opportunity to use judges they probably couldn’t afford to bring in on their own.”

The chairperson for the Combined Specialty club is Mary Thuemling. “She and I have a great working relationship,” Mareth says. “Combined is part of the glue that holds the weekend together.”

Other aspects of judges’ selection help draw an entry to Waukesha in July. “We love to bring in provisional judges and pretty much have made the decision to not hire local,” Mareth says. “Since ours is the largest outdoor show in the upper Midwest, we feel that, to keep that edge, we need to bring in faces generally not seen in our area.”

Often it is newer judges who fill the bill for the Waukesha panels. “I scour the AKC website for new judges, and if their breed typically has a rather nice entry at our shows, they are invited. We have yet to be turned down by a provisional judge when they are asked.”

Last year the three-day weekend added a new draw when the Great Lakes Terrier Association decided to hold a second show each year, and chose Waukesha as the place to hold it. As with any new development of this kind, it takes time for exhibitors and handlers to realize that another club is holding a show. “There were about 160 dogs entered last year, but it was a good beginning.”

Again, teamwork helps everything run smoothly. “Tom Rapinchuk is their go-to guy, and he and I work well together,” Mareth explains. “We are delighted to have another club connected with us.”

Several years ago, WKC decided to have the Waukesha County Parks Department handle its RV parking, always a big job for clusters. “Prior to that decision, this was probably the biggest headache for the club,” says Mareth. “They are extremely professional in the manner in which they handle this portion of the weekend, and we are delighted that burden is off our shoulders.”

Ultralift, a Wisconsin-based supplier of bathtubs, grooming tables and other equipment, supplies a place for exhibitors to bathe their dogs during the Waukesha shows. Photo courtesy of Ultralift Inc./www.tablesntubs.com

Of course, since this is a summer cluster, precautions are taken to keep everyone, dogs and humans, as cool and comfortable as possible. Two large air-conditioned buildings on the grounds are used for grooming. At one point there was discussion about moving the grooming outside to a tent and moving some of the rings into the air-conditioned building. “A wise professional handler mentioned that the dogs spend much more time not in the ring,” Mareth says, “so keeping them in the air conditioning was the best use of the buildings.”

Unlike so many clubs, Waukesha has not adopted the practice of charging for grooming space. “I am strongly opposed to paid-for grooming space, and I hope it never comes to that for our club. I believe people pay enough to enter and attend a dog show, and shouldn’t have to pay for a space to groom their dogs as well.”

The show grounds offer shower and restroom facilities for people, and delicious food is served in the cafeteria on the grounds all three days, beginning at 7 a.m. On Saturday morning this year, WKC teams up with Take the Lead for a breakfast that will include a raffle, with lots of great prizes. All proceeds will go to Take the Lead.

Obedience and rally trials are held on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, in the air-conditioned Expo Center Arena. Although the club has found no explanation for it, “It seems those entries are falling off,” Mareth says. “This year, to better utilize this facility, we are offering a CGC as well.”

Waukesha KC drew 1,788 dogs on Saturday this year, and 1,742 on Sunday. The club also hosts the Beginner Puppy Competition on Saturday and has drawn 37 entries of 4- to 6-month-old puppies in 28 breeds. WKC is also offering the AKC Owner-Handler Series this year.

The Burlington, Wis., Kennel Club holds back-to-back shows in Elkhorn on Monday and Tuesday following the Waukesha shows. The show site at the Walworth County Fairgrounds is a half-hour drive from the Waukesha venue.