Page 102 - ShowSight - April 2020
P. 102

In conjunction with the film dogs, we began annual visits to the hos- pital itself to do the show for the children on the day before the event. At first, the dogs were not permitted inside the hospital because at that time the medical profession worried about possible infections and other risks to the patients, but over the years there were many visits by canine celebri- ties like “Air Bud” and other TV and film dogs. This would eventually lead to a canine therapy group being allowed into the hospital as well as Ronald McDonald and Target house to soothe and comfort the children. I am happy to say I think our visits were instrumental in the eventual acceptance of therapy dogs, not only at St. Jude, but also in many hospitals throughout the country.
One year the Golden Retriever, Buddy, from the Air Bud film per- formed and he had a very special impact on everyone as Bud himself was also undergoing cancer treatment at the time. Many patients that year were especially moved by their interaction with this very special canine.
We annually invited several elementary schools to participate in a St. Jude Showcase of Dogs art contest and these kids did a fantastic job with their art. The winning art used on the annual event T-Shirts. Also, all the submitted art was put on display for everyone to enjoy.
There was another special event we had that was open to all including the public. We called it “Super Dog” and it was a fun competition judged by local celebrities and others. At the first event, Jim Deringer from the AKC served as one of the judges. Super Dog was made up of events such as “Bag Your Dog”, a contest to see which dog would sit still the longest with a paper shopping bag on its head; “Get In the Car”, that determined which dog had the fastest time from the starting line to get in the adjacent car; “Call Your Dog”, where two owners would hide behind a structure and bet on who the dog would come in the fastest time; “The Maze”, where dogs were released into a maze and encouraged through it with the fastest time; “Dress Your Dog”, a race to a pile of human clothes where you would put a shirt and pants on your dog and run back to the finish line; “The Obstacle Course” for both people and their dogs—fastest time wins. There were other events as well. Each competitor earned points and the eventual winner was crowned “Super Dog.”
Since our event was about the children, we wanted to have an area where the kids could kick back and have fun. We talked about fair-type rides, but found the financial commitments and liabilities were highhigh. We decided instead on a kiddie fun zone where we had kids’ games and various inflatables along with a small-scale rideable train to entertain and amuse children with their parents.
I am not aware of any really large scale Meet the Breeds type of events in 1994, but we decided that we would invite every AKC parent club in the country to participate. We provided them with a free 10x10 pipe and draped booth to present their breed to the general public, and to also offer them the opportunity to present their breed to judges and
exhibitors in the form of breed seminars that would be pro- vided free of charge to potential judges considering judg- ing their breed. This was at a time when there were very few seminars available in one place and way before the AKC institutes we have today.
That first event would feature over 60 individual breed seminars. AKC judges Gary Doerge and Carol Sommerfelt, as well as other members of the Mid-South judges group, served as the hosts for the seminars. Over the years, many of the icons of various breeds would come to Memphis to pres- ent their breed at seminars where, in most years, between 75-100 judges would attend
In that first year, we also had 59 individual breed booths and 24 all-breed and other organization groups participate in getting their information out to the general public.
There was no question that we were going outside the box when we decided to allow the general public to bring their dogs. This created many difficult issues with the AKC rules, but we felt it was important to let the public bring their dogs. We had a very strict policy that during the event no dogs could be sold, placed, adopted or traded. It was emphasized to all the breeds and other groups that if people were interested, they could follow up with them after the event was over.
Probably no single event or demonstration over the years was as popular as flyball. In the first year, we invited a group from Houston, Texas to come and do demonstrations and share their sport with the public. The general public fell in love with the sport. Starting in year two of the event it became an annual tournament and when our event ended its run in 2009, the largest flyball tournament in North America was being held at the Showcase.
When putting on an event of this size there are so many small details that require attention and hard work. We had to find food vendors, and we needed to find a variety of regular vendors to buy space. This gave us a chance to succeed and pay our bills. We also needed people in print advertising, TV, and radio to assist in the promotion of the event. We needed people to handle parking, ticket sales, set up and tear down, a convention supply company to provide pipe and drape for booths, AV equipment, tables, chairs, and many other items. We had to find catering companies to provide lunch for the workers and volunteers as well as security for the general public.
By May of 1995, we were only five months away from seeing our project on display. In May of that year, the Mayor of Memphis, The Shelby County Mayor, Executives from Pedigree and myself gathered on the steps of St. Jude Chil- dren’s research hospital for a press conference to announce the inaugural event to the general public. This was an important landmark in our success as it became an alliance between the dog people, the local government and St. Jude to present our sport of purebred dogs to the public. Over the following 15 years, that proved to be a great alliance as no dog legislation was put into effect in the city or the county. >

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