When deciding on entering a show do the venue and location factor in your choice?
For most exhibitors, the judging panel plays a great deal in factoring into the choice of what upcoming shows to enter. But what are some of the other issues that play in that decision-making?
Venues play a significant role for fans of Sports, Theatre, Concerts, and a variety of things of human interest. One can look back thousands of years to the great coliseum in Rome where gladiators and other events were put on to entertain the citizens of the times. Just recently the lower levels of the historic structure were made available to visitors allowing them to see some of the conditions as well amazing technology that went into the magnificent structure.
Athletes and fans of the most popular sports have certain stadiums and arenas that they love to perform in or witness a game at. For dog lovers, Madison Square Garden in New York is not only home to the world-famous Westminster Kennel Club but it also has been the location for a multitude of other major events such as NBA and NCAA Basketball, Numerous Championships in Boxing, and other sports, Concerts, The Circus and I have no idea on the total number of different events held at the historic building. The lower inside hallways have numerous photos hanging depicting many of the great historic events held there through the years.
I imagine that for most Boston Fans Historic Fenway Park and the Old Boston Garden hold a special place in their memories for games they may have had the opportunity to attend in their youth or their journey through life.
For a Chicago Cubs fan, it is Wrigley Field, A Cincinnatti Reds fan may miss Old Crosley Field, a New Yorker loves Yankee Stadium, The Rose, and Cotton Bowl stadiums are rich with history, The great Horseshoe Stadium in Columbus, Ohio home of the Ohio State Buckeyes. For some, it may be those newer structures, Camden Yards in Baltimore, AT&T stadium (Jerry's World) in Dallas, Mercedes Benz Stadium in Atlanta, and of course the Old (8th wonder of the world) and New Houston Astrodome.
Moviegoers, Fans of the Opera, and Broadway plays all have special places that they enjoy going to often to experience the joy that is enhanced by watching or participating at their favorite venue.
So how do we as dog show exhibitors, Judges, and enthusiasts feel about the various venues we share in our country?
Throughout our history as a sport, numerous changes have always been a part of the equation. When I started in the sport all shows were one-day events that with very few exceptions meant you would pack up and move to the show being held the next day at a different location and venue. Amazingly almost all shows in those days had entries of 1000 to 1500 dogs and rarely did shows go past 4:00 or 5:00 in the afternoon. (makes you wonder why now it seems 6:00 to 8:00 in the evening is the norm with lower entries?)
In those days the majority of shows held from Spring until late Fall were held outdoors at Fairgrounds under tents or in various livestock buildings. One of my favorite weekends was the old Ravenna and Chagrin (Western Reserve KC) weekend in Ohio with huge entries, spacious rings, and the wonderful Sunday show at the Polo Field. In the winter Western Reserve Played host to the Christmas Classic shows held for years at the downtown convention center and later at the Huge IX center near the airport. These shows were some of the largest in the country with 3,000 or more dogs regularly. More recently the Palm Springs January shows at the polo field, The week of shows at the spacious Orlando Convention center, The large shows in Louisville and Houston stand out as shows where the venue can accommodate not only large entries but offer large rings and a huge spectator following.
Over the years as both an Exhibitor and Judge I have experienced a wide variety of venues both indoors and outdoors. I do believe that a venue can often have a direct or indirect result on the success of various exhibits at the shows. First, the size and layout of the venue dictate the available space for rings, available grooming areas, the width of aisles, parking, vendors, and numerous other things. In my humble opinion, the size of the rings in which we exhibit is too often dictated by the size of the venue.
For those exhibitors of Sporting, Hound, Working, Herding, and a few other of the larger breeds small rings truly hurt the overall performance of many of the dogs. The AKC mandates a minimum of 40' X40' for ring size and while this is adequate for Toys, Terriers, and most Non-Sporting breeds it is not sufficient for most other breeds. Add in large classes and it can also be a safety hazard.
In small rings, a well-put-together dog barely takes a few steps before he is cutting corners and running into the dog in front of him. For the handler, it means usually keeping a tight grip on their charge to be able to control him in the limited space. Go watch German Shepherds sometimes in a 40' x 40' ring and tell me how a judge can truly and objectively evaluate the breed.
Small rings hurt the good moving dogs and can often help those straighter in the shoulder and rear angulation as they can look balanced and under control while the dogs needing a larger ring never really get a chance to "Move Out" at an effortless speed on a loose lead.
As an exhibitor, I love outdoor shows because there are usually large rings and I love to see dogs in natural sunlight. Of course, good weather always helps.
Without considering the judging panel what are some of the pros and cons of the various types of available venues?
When showing indoors we have safety from adverse weather conditions. No worry about rain. Snow, Storms, and if they have a great heating and cooling system the building will be comfortable. Most sites also have plenty of electricity which helps those with certain grooming needs.
Some of the cons; In many buildings, everything is crammed, the rings are usually smaller, the grooming areas jam-packed (or there is an extra charge for reserved grooming space), Often the aisles outside the rings are crowded with chairs and spectators creating an area ripe with opportunities for a dog fight by those not carefully watching their dog. You need to unload and move your vehicle. Some of these are on dirt floor horse arenas in which you breathe in dust and dirt all weekend long. Some lack good lighting and proper ventilation and in the case of cold weather, some lack proper heating for the building. As previously mentioned some of these buildings are Fantastic and provide large rings, good lighting, and all the things that make a show great, but these sites are in the minority.
Outdoor shows also have a range of plusses and minuses. First, almost all have much larger rings, a more festive and relaxed environment. Most have plenty of parking for RV's and other vehicles which allows exhibitors to groom at their parking spot with their pop-ups, ex pens, and a place to tailgate, relax, socialize, and even cookout. Outdoors the natural lighting is great and many dogs shine under the sun. The outdoor show also has its own set of drawbacks. A lack of proper tenting or cover can be a safety issue especially in the case of extreme weather be it heat, rain, wind, and everything in between. Some locales have great level ground, short well kept, and maintained grass while others can be a field of weeds and holes or hills which can make a ring unsafe. Tent Poles can get in the way as can an occasional tree sitting in the middle of a ring. If the weather turns bad rings can become a muddy mess and if the grass is not cut properly short-legged breeds may have difficulty looking their best.
There is no doubt that we have many excellent indoor as well as outdoor venues in our country. We also have numerous locations that meet average needs and unfortunately some that are less than ideal.
In today's world, many clubs are limited as to the facilities that are available to them. However, for many years before the advent of large clusters, these clubs found workable venues in their hometowns to put on good shows and share the world of pure-bred dogs with friends and others in their community at least twice a year. Those small-town venues were a nice change of pace as opposed to today's shows with certain locations being used on numerous weekends throughout the year depriving the small towns of many clubs the opportunity to keep the show home.
I think any club that hosts a show as well as the AKC needs to look closer at our venues to ensure that the size of the rings can handle large breeds and large entries. Can you imagine what would happen if a stadium wasn't large enough for a regulation area for a football, baseball, basketball, or hockey game? Do you think the leagues, players, and fans, would support or play there?
We need to take a closer look at our venues and the AKC needs to review the size of ring requirements. Even though a 40' x40' ring meets the minimum standard are we being fair in our evaluations of the breeds and exhibitors of larger breeds? the safety of everyone in a crowded ring should also be a consideration.
I admire the hard-working volunteers of every show-giving club. Putting on a show is not an easy undertaking. All clubs have a variety of obstacles to overcome from working members to financial costs, to available facilities, workable dates, and competition from other shows. These people work hard to plan, schedule, and layout their shows. Keeping all of that in mind the clubs and the AKC must consider the needs of the exhibitors. They must provide venues that are safe and large enough to satisfy their exhibitors. Smaller venues still need to provide for proper ring sizes even if it means lowering the limit on the size of the entry.
Even though we don’t live in a perfect world we can adjust to meet the needs of the fancy. When planning your show your question should not be how many rings can we fit in this building? Rather it should ask the question, using a combination of various sized rings how many good rings can we provide our exhibitors?
Another possibility might be our building is not ideal but is there another site that might work better?
Making our show sites user-friendly and safe for our exhibitors will keep them coming back for many years. What do you think?