The big Waukesha, Wis., dog show weekend begins today at the Waukesha County Exposition Center. The cluster opens with the Combined Specialty Clubs of Greater Milwaukee, including specialties for 15 breeds, and the Great Lakes All Terrier Association show, and continues with two Waukesha Kennel Club all-breed shows on Saturday and Sunday. In its 52nd year, WKC’s shows drew 1,677 and 1,658 entries this year, down from 1,788 and 1,742 in 2012. Burlington Wisconsin Kennel Club hosts back-to-back shows on Monday and Tuesday in Elkhorn, Wis., a half-hour drive from the Waukesha shows.

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 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. Photos courtesy of Esme Treen Gibson.

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

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

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 can be nearly 1,000, so you can see that’s an added benefit to the WKC weekend.”

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 Specialties 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 not to 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 not generally 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.”

In 2011 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. 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.”

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 is 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 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 Friday this year the Eukanuba Breeder’s Stakes competition will take place, and on Saturday WKC and Take the Lead will host an ice cream social and a raffle with terrific prizes. Obedience and rally will take place Friday through Sunday at the Expo Center.

Portions of this article are reprinted from a 2012 article about the past and present of the Waukesha KC.