“The Planet’s Greatest Dog Show” was the billing for the 5th annual AKC/Eukanuba National Championship held at Tampa Florida the weekend of January 14th & 15th 2006.
The “greatest dog show” conjures images of Westminster, even for those not into dogs!
So, did it live up to the fanfare and expectations? Was it anywhere nears the promotions and advertising that replayed over and over on Animal Planet and at other media conduits?
Absolutely! Throngs of people filled up the whole downtown area adjacent to the convention center, bus loads of people were being ferried from the area’s finest hotels, the trolley was putting in extra time all day and late into the evening transporting people to the site, taxis had special drop off points for the dignitaries and limos brought the real VIPs right to the front doors. There have been estimates as high as 35,000 people per day at the upstart canine event!
Being part of that throng, in many of the busloads and assuredly one of those estimated 35,000; I can attest that it lived up to the billing and then some. Notice that I wasn’t in the taxi or the limo crowd; goes to show that it’s not what you know but whom you kiss up to! I was given Judge's seating tickets for the big event at the Forum, but I chose to sit in the busload's crowd, lest someone think I had been stooping to smooch anyone!
It was total elbow to elbow room everywhere you went, as all three floors of the mammoth, cavernous convention center were jammed with rings, exhibits, vendors and of course eateries. Lines were 20 and 30 long everywhere, including at each and every ring where people sat in chairs, with other people sitting on the floor right in front of the chairs and then people stood three and four deep behind those sitting in the chairs. Of course, obtaining a chair was a 2 to 3 hours wait until someone decided to vacate their premium sitting and then it was a mad rush to get the chair from all those that had been eyeballing it hours in advance.
The AKC and the Eukanuba people must by reveling it up big time as this venue has turned into a huge PR gem for both sponsors. Not to mention the vendors of which several are personal friends of mine and each was giddy with excitement as their sales were off the charts.
In a very short 5 years, this event has risen to the stellar heights of this country’s show dog world, most in the fancy consider it to be right up there with Westminster, which celebrates its 130th show this year! In fact, since Eukanuba showcases each breed’s top 25 ranked dogs, it actually has become the premier dog event for show dog breeders.
Last year’s event was very special for Chambray with Am/Int Ch Chambrays Twist Of Fate (Karley) reaching the top 25 rankings for Labrador Retrievers and receiving an invitation to compete. Unfortunately, due to personal responsibilities, I was not able to attend and watch my daughter Jessica handle Karley in the Labrador breed competition, nor in the Junior Handling competition that she qualified for during the 2004 show year.
This year both Jessica and my son Ryan were among the 175 out of over 4,000 junior handlers that qualified nationwide and each received an invitation to this most prestigious of canine events. This year I made the trip and watched my kids compete in the junior handling competition, I also got to see the 25 top-ranked Labradors in the breed ring and that was a sight to see (there were also several Bred By Exhibitors champions and a couple of foreign champions invited).
Although Chambray and the Partners Program were not directly represented this year, we did have plenty of interest in several of the dogs competing. Out of the 30 Labradors in the ring, Chambray Labradors and the Partners Program had connections with 5 of them. What a validation for the selection of dogs for our breeding program to have this many dogs end up the year as top dogs. There were 7 awards handed out to the 30 Labradors competing, Best of Breed, Best of Opposite Sex and 5 Judge's Award of Merit.
Needless to say, as an ardent breed aficionado I was enthralled with watching this phenomenal array of the top Labradors in the country, if not the world.
As a purist breeder with a vested interested in 25% of the dogs in competition, I was elated beyond mere words! How rewarding to be able to select years in advance dogs to incorporate into the breeding program and then later to see those same dogs reach national/world prominence.
Wow, what a great rush that was to sit at ringside (literally, as I was sitting on the floor right by the ropes separating the crowds from the competitors) and visualize the next level of the Partners Program/Chambray Labradors; all the offspring of these great dogs contributing to the Betterment of the Breed under our unique and exclusive management program!
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