Page 104 - ShowSight - April 2020
P. 104

There is no way an event like this takes place without volunteers. I estimate that annually we would have over 300 individu- als volunteer in some way to make this show work. Many of our volunteers were not dog people, but rather people who volunteered to further the mission of St. Jude.
Many people volunteered for that first event who would continue to volunteer every year throughout our successful run. These people were so vital to our continuity and success and I will always be grateful for their contributions.
Starting from year one, Traci Mathews built a connection with a group of non- violent offenders to do their community service hours. Many of these individuals would often be the labor that helped us put up tents, cut grass, park cars, keep the area clean, staff numerous areas and do a lot to assist us. Jerry Pittman and I would start on the Monday before the event getting things set up and would be there on Monday after to put the Agricenter back the way it was.
Even after Carol and I relocated to Knoxville about 375 miles away in 2003, I would travel back for meetings as well as to spend the week of the event—from the Monday before to the Monday after—get- ting things done.
In the following years, the Greater Shelby Kennel Club would become the host club and started to hold their point show in conjunction with the event. Later, the Tupelo Kennel Club of Mississippi would also partner with us to make it a four-day weekend event. When hiring their judg- ing panels both clubs allowed for many of the newer judges to participate by offer- ing them the opportunity to judge their provisional breeds.
Tim James and the Onofrio organization became a vital partner for the shows and the event in general. Especially in helping us to deal with difficult moments in dealing with AKC rules and regulations. Because of the rules, any area hosting an AKC event had to be roped off with signage stating no unentered dogs were allowed past those signs into the areas where AKC designated events were being held. I can tell you from personal experience that most of the AKC people were understanding and helpful with the difficulties we faced. I will always
be grateful to the late Dr. Robert Berndt, a special friend and the AKC Chairman of the board at the time, as well as the late Bill Bergum, also an AKC board member, for their support and guidance not only for the event, but in dealing with AKC aspects and conflicts as they arose. While most of the folks at the AKC were supportive and understanding, there were also a couple of individuals within the organization that at times made it very, very difficult to put on the event.
From being told by many it could not be done, a tremendous group of volun- teers and organizations worked together to make the initial show a success. Atten- dance that first year was estimated at over 25,000 people and, after all the bills were paid, the event was able to purchase a very special transport vehicle for The Children of St. Jude with a cost above $37,000. The publicity from the event was extremely posi- tive and all involved decided to make it an annual event.
Over the years the event would add and subtract events and adjust to changes within the sport.
The event would also hold galas in con- junction with the event and would offer individuals in some cases an opportunity to visit the hospital. After visiting St. Jude some of those people were so moved that they made future bequests to the mission of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in their wills.
By the time our run ended in 2009, we had raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for St. Jude. We had entertained several hundred thousand visitors to the event, contained anti-canine legislation while also introducing many new people to our sport and making a positive impact in our community.
From 1995 until 2009, we put on a very special show. It was an event that I truly believe made a positive difference in our world of dogs. Since that first show, AKC has added agility, herding, rally, and rec- ognizes so many titles that were not avail- able in 1995. We’ve seen the AKC build the AKC Championship Show in Orlando into an event that has incorporated a lot of what we did way back in 1995. We now see “Meet
the Breeds” being held not only by AKC in New York and other areas, but that many local clubs are now incorporating it into their weekends.
We have all seen an increase in acknowl- edging our dogs as a vital part of society. There were two members of our Showcase committee that were in New York after 9/11 with their search and rescue group follow- ing the twin towers disaster. The Memphis area has created several therapy groups, some of the Kennel Clubs have added herd- ing and other events by recruiting people that had been involved in the event.
We all know that over time the dynam- ics within clubs and groups experience change. After my relocation to Knoxville, I started to see a change within some of the organizations that were a part of the event. Eventually, some people within the various organizations felt that the event was a bur- den to their group and started to have a very negative effect on the overall mission of the event. What followed was a very difficult time in the treatment of many of the vol- unteers that had contributed so much over the years.
All things in society eventually experi- ence change. So, for a variety of reasons, the St. Jude Showcase of Dogs ended its run in 2009. I imagine if the time and effort I had put into the event through those years had been put into advancing my judging career I could be an all-breed judge today. Rather, I chose to pursue an idea. With the great help of so many people through the years, I believe we accomplished what we set out to do. That was to raise money for the kids at St. Jude and show the world the sport of dogs does indeed have a lot to offer.
All of us know, eventually, there is a beginning and an end to most things in life. The Showcase of Dogs taught me a great deal about myself, about other people, and most importantly, the value of volunteers and the ability to enjoy the experience of people working together outside of any per- sonal agendas in order to achieve something for the greater good.
I would suggest that if you want to think outside the box—if you have an idea that you think has benefits—go for it. I know I did, and I am a better man for it.

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