The Show Must Go On

By Jessica Freni

Photos by Karen Hansen

As the pandemic crawls onward, returning to “normal” seemingly inching further and further away, dog shows have proved the community’s resilience finding a way not only to go on, but most shows reaching entry limits (and quickly!). Questions, rumor, and speculation have swirled ringside and online for months regarding how and if some of the highest profile, highest attendance shows would go on and what would they look like in the age of Corona?

The much anticipated Fall event, drawing record crowds every five years, Morris and Essex, sadly announced they were forced “after an exhaustive investigation,” to postpone one year to October 2021 (announcement on Club official page June 22nd) The National Dog Show televised annually on Thanksgiving Day, opted to carry on, albeit at a drastically reduced entry (initially 200/ day increased to 300/ day) and one show, two day format for champions only (benching eliminated for 2020). The AKC Royal Canin National Championship is full steam ahead for December 6-14th at the Orange County Convention Center in a “show and go ” format closed to spectators, although still holding events for “popular attractions such as the Best Bred-by-Exhibitor competition, the AKC National Owner-Handled Series Finals, the AKC Royal Canin National All-Breed Puppy and Junior Stakes and the NADD/AKC Dock Diving. The show will once again take place alongside the AKC Agility Invitational, with junior events in Conformation and Agility. Added this year is the National Obedience Championship, and the AKC Rally National Championship.”

Questions persisted about Westminster 2021, since announcing the judging panel in May, official statements were relatively quiet. WKC became a frequent topic on social media groups, the commenters seemed divided about whether or not the show should go on, should it cancel or postpone, would travel to former Covid Hotspot NYC be feasible, and concerns were expressed regarding safety within the city of New York.

Suddenly, (finally!) the fancy had an answer in the form of a picturesque venue reminiscent of Downton Abbey. Westminster Kennel Club would go on with its 2021 show, but with a completely reimagined look not in February, but June 11th-13th. Dogs shows were returning to the historic, sprawling Lyndhurst Estate in the form of Westminster! The surprising announcement seemed to result in a collective sigh of relief and overwhelming positive comments on the official Westminster Kennel Club page (on a promo clip now with 144K views).

Westminster (1877) and the Kentucky Derby (1875) both found ways to prevail and adapt during the Covid-19 pandemic keeping intact the tandem tradition of the longest held, annual sporting events.