Storm clouds over the main drag in West Springfield, Massachusetts, whose fairgrounds have become home to shows from other states.
Fri, 05/03/2024 - 2:01am

Question of the Week

Do you think there are too many show-giving clubs using the same venue?

Randy Garren

Apex, North Carolina

I have thought that for many years. I know how difficult it is to find a show site. However, it is not healthy for our sport to have umpteen shows in one location. Our sport is not thriving, and this is not helpful in letting more people experience dog shows. Also, smaller shows have a definite and positive place in the grand scope of things.


Susan Kwiatkowski

Lebanon, New Jersey

The available venues allow us to have shows. It’s about the judging, not the grounds.


Cassandra de la Rosa

Olympia, Washington

As a show chair, I am surprised this question would even be asked, but given the small number of us who work on finding acceptable venues, negotiating leases and fulfilling lease requirements, I shouldn’t be.

The fact is, exhibitors should be thankful there is a venue that consistently accepts show-giving clubs as tenants. And there is definitely value in knowing in advance the layout of the place, and the things that make it convenient and not so much so, especially since there is no such thing as a perfect venue. Even if it were perfect to some, it would not be to others.

The scary fact is more workable sites are closing their doors to dog shows than opening them. 

There are reasons for this. 

Fairground governing boards populated by new members may have different priorities from their predecessors. Animal-rights activists may target boards with information that is not friendly to dog shows or breeders. One local club in this area was homeless for more than a year when their longtime fairgrounds decided that dog shows were not part of their mission.

Bad experiences from prior years may make boards unwilling to lease again. Some don't want the hassle and mess that dog shows invariably bring and often leave. To cite just one example, last summer our cluster was fined by our lessor for dog messes left on the grass. Dogs on the grass were a violation of our lease. We had ample public ex-pens. The premium list clearly stated dogs were to be kept off the grass. There were signs stating to stay off the grass. The wedding set-up crew that arrived a few days after we left found the grass less than acceptable.

Many venues are raising rents and increasing restrictions to a degree that make it financially unsustainable for show-giving clubs. The trend in declining entries, increased air and hotel expenses for judges, difficulty in securing volunteer help and instead having to hire bodies to do work are taking a toll on clubs' treasuries. Judges, for the most part, have been terrific in keeping their fees at a level that demonstrates their love for what they do and commitment to the fancy.

Homeless clubs may face pushback when asking to hold a show in another club’s territory. This means that even though a workable and willing venue is available, it is off limits to visiting clubs.

This is just a small snapshot of what goes on behind the curtain when finding a site to hold a dog show. 

So hats off to those clubs willing to cooperate and use good venues many times over. This not only makes it easy for clubs to host their shows, but creates a financial bloc that makes it harder for the venue to say, “No more dog shows!” 


Beverly Vics

Leesburg, Florida

I think it's great for handlers and exhibitors when we have three, four or five days at one site. However, we are not servicing the communities when clubs go out of their own territory for their show. I remember Bronx County Kennel Club show in the Bronx, and Queensboro in Queens. They served the community by having shows in their respective territories. Now I can't think of any shows in New York City other than Westminster. How can we promote the benefits of purebred dogs if we don't reach the communities?


Linda Cooper

Agawam, Massachusetts

I am lucky enough to live in Massachusetts, only a few miles away from the Big E Fairgrounds in West Springfield. Year-round shows (approximately 30 shows every year) now hosting not only Massachusetts clubs but New York and Connecticut shows of two to five days! Convenient to major highways, it has three buildings — the largest being five acres, I believe — and all events indoors, so comfortable for dogs and exhibitors with air conditioning, heat, food concessions and vendors. Ample parking for RVs with hook-ups. And plenty of hotels within one to five miles. With all these amenities and a great fairground staff, the site offers numerous specialties, supported entries and of late a Working Dog specialty. Personally, I haven’t been able to show outdoors, due to having had heat stroke twice early in my showing adventures, so this is a perfect site. Most times there will also be other shows being held at the same time, such as gem shows, fiber shows, horse events, etc. Those bring in visitors to the dog shows and give exhibitors staying on the grounds something to do in their down time.  


Laura Coomes

Ocala, Florida

When we find a show site that is worthy, we should all wish to go back to it more often! The Doswell, Virginia, site is amazing, and it shocks me that it changes the number of dogs that show up for each club. Meaning you never know which shows will hold majors or not. When you have a venue like Purina Farms, no wonder they are booked all the time! An amazing site for everyone to use — we should be so lucky. 

If only we could build more of these sites that could hold the RVs, parking and grooming. Let’s keep going back to the big venues instead of these small, dinky show sites that have no entries, small rings and no real helpers to work them. 


Diane Baker

Oglesby, Illinois

Finding venues that accept dogs, are available on necessary dates and are affordable is getting very difficult. Because of that, I have no objections to using the same venues many times during the year. 

As an aside, I think a much bigger issue is that there are way too many shows. That does more damage to the purebred dog fancy than where the shows are held.


Janice Leonard

Denver, Colorado

Depends on the area of the country. You can’t compare the West and the size of our counties to the Eastern seaboard counties and the availability of show sites. The downside is holding your show at another club site that nobody likes.


Donna Hills

Atlanta, Georgia

If the show venues are great, never mind the number of times they are used. 

What makes a show venue great?

1. First and foremost, the safety of the people participating in the show. Gunfire during the night from surrounding areas is a no. Needles and syringes in parking lots and sidewalks — no. Broken glass on the ground throughout the area — no. Grounds so lumpy it is difficult to walk and difficult for your dog to walk — no.

2. Food vendors adequate to feed a variety and volume of people at the shows. One vendor is not enough. How about some healthy options? 

3. OMGosh, if there is a laundromat!

4. Handler parking close to the show site for handlers with a large volume of dogs to get back and forth to the building. 

5. Areas with adequate hotels and/or campgrounds. 

6. Adequate grooming space and safe electricity for all exhibitors — either paid for or determined by the number of entries. 

7. This sport is a “gray” sport with the majority of people actively and consistently participating middle age and beyond. We need these people in the sport; they bring knowledge and experience to the shows. “Graying” comes with a variety of physical issues. Provide a safe venue for these people, access to buildings, relatively flat show grounds and good lighting.

8. One last add: Many people at the shows do not have great wealth. Admittedly, they must have a good bit of disposable income to participate. Hotel options need to be reasonably priced.


Steven Herman

Wesley Chapel, Florida 

Yes. It would be nice for clubs to hold shows in their own communities. They could reach out to their neighbors there. However, we know there is a lack of appropriate or affordable venues everywhere, and this compels clubs to go outside their areas.


Cindy Zelbst

Lawton, Oklahoma

Unfortunately, show-giving venues are getting very expensive. Everything about holding a dog show is very expensive. Therefore, it’s more feasible to use some of the less expensive venues over and over. Those complaining about an overused venue need to be sitting on a show committee to understand the expense involved with holding a dog show. It’s either use the venue or not have a dog show. 


Edy Dykstra-Blum

Ocala, Florida

I do not think so. It is difficult enough to find facilities and grounds to hold dog shows. The single-weekend shows do not pull enough entries, and clubs are struggling with the cost of facilities, judges’ expenses and fees. 

The other thing is that gas is expensive, and having multiple shows at one facility makes it more affordable for clubs and exhibitors, also easier on judges, less travelling between shows.


Rebecca Baum 

Nassau, New York 

I appreciate the consistency of using the same good show sites for multiple clubs and/or annually. It's easier to find the location, hotels, restaurants, alternate routes in bad traffic, etc., when you are familiar with the area. Other than specialty shows, I hate when good venues are changed.


Mary Anne Brocious

Milford, Michigan

As a show chair, I am well aware of the desperate situation many clubs are in trying to find an acceptable show site that is affordable and available on the AKC calendar date. In many areas with inclement winter weather, there are no shows from the end of fall to the beginning of spring. The sites that are available are cost prohibitive, leaving clubs with the only option of good-weather venues. 

When a site becomes available that is affordable, works for a dog show and is available, clubs will flock to arrange their events there. Exhibitors should not look at it as the “same old” site, but look at the fact that there is a reasonable location that will accommodate dog shows. Fewer venues will accommodate our events. 

Each club using the same venue should personalize its events with decorations, special attractions and activities that will separate its shows from the others. Put your club’s stamp on your event if you use a site shared with other clubs.


Mark Francis Jaeger

Mason, Michigan

Before we look at how many clubs use any particular venue, we must ask just how many suitable venues are available. After that, we must consider the cost of hosting dog shows at those venues. Here in Michigan, some venues are no longer available (such as the Birch Run Center or Cobo Hall), and others are frightfully expensive (like the Novi Expo Center). There are also issues regarding dog-friendly hotel accommodations in the area. And it's better to have motorhome parking with electricity and water.

My conclusion is that, as a fancy, we are lucky to have multiple clubs at good venues, like the Monroe County Fairgrounds.


Linda Tilka

Madeira Beach, Florida

Having the same venue, if ideal for showing and parking, in my opinion is not the issue. It's the pros and cons that are. The pros are having the clubs congregate for long periods. This is the ideal situation for judges who have more than two groups. They can spend seven to 10 days in one spot. The judge with one or two groups is overlooked or too expensive to hire. Professional handlers have to love it. They can set up for a week or so, show and finish their dogs one after another. More power to them; it's their job. As far as the folks who show their dogs locally or limitedly, they can pick and choose which judges they like and not show under those they dislike. The odds that they win are against them unless they are seasoned.

I remember when we used to have to pick up and move to the next club’s shows. Diane Albers made it a not-to-miss show in Orlando with their food and entertainment. It was fun. Ocala put on a meal for the exhibitors. It was kind of nice, as the wins were shared among those who could move. Some of the old venues were darling, some horrific. Sign of the times, I guess. We should write a book.



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