As Ann Stucky, the volunteer media contact explained, the term “cluster” refers to the collaborative nature of the event. That is, the show is hosted by the NEIKC, along with LaPorte County Kennel Club, Sturgis (Mich.) Kennel Club, and Marion Kennel Club.
Stucky, who owns several dogs herself, has been involved with the club for the past six years. It’s the kennel club members who are responsible for the planning and execution of the show.
The show is gaining more clout each year by becoming one of the largest in the Midwest and featuring more than 150 registered breeds. New breeds are recognized by the American Kennel Club (AKC) each year, which contributes to the growth.
The figure of 150 breeds doesn’t exactly tell the whole story, says Stucky.
The show is cumulative in nature, which means the most dogs compete on Saturday — the last day of competition. A dog show typically consists of a skills competitions, fun shows and conformation events.
Regardless of the type of event the dog will compete in, the system remains the same for placing the dogs in different classes for judging.
If the show is for more than one dog breed, the dogs will first be classified by breed on their registration papers. Once the dogs are separated by breed, they are put into classes according to their gender and age.
Each day will produce one “Best of Show” winner. Locally, that means participation can range from 900 dogs on the first day to 1,600 on Saturday.
In addition to numbers, Stucky is proud of the show’s geographic reach.
“Dogs come from all over the country, she said. “A lot of top dogs in the country will be there.”
For example, the winner of the 2010 Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show took home the 2009 “Best in Show” award on two days in the Old Fort Cluster Dog Show.
No two shows are the same each year, which makes things interesting.
“It’s always a different perspective because there are different dogs (each year),” she explained.
In addition to the notoriety and variety, Stucky finds great importance in the economic impact of the dog show. The five-day nature of the event is one reason for the popularity, she said.
“When people are showing their dogs,” she explained, “they like to come when there’s more than one show.”
And as many as 1,700 dogs can translate into significant travel and lodging expenses for owners and breeders. Stucky estimates the show contributes as much as $250,000 in local economic impact.
“It really does make a difference in the economy,” she said.
The support from the local community also should not be understated.
Attendance for the 2011 dog show was 2,684 people, Stucky said. Individuals and families are drawn to the event because of its accessible nature.
Stucky says the demographics depend on the day of the week. Saturday usually boasts the best attendance. It is common for dog owners to come out to an event where their favorite breed is exhibited, she said.
Show hours are 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day, with Best in Show awarded at the end of each day’s judging. On Saturday, the Canine Good Citizen (CGC) Exam and Eye Clinic with CERF exam will be offered.
The former is the first obedience title a dog can earn. The CERF exam is specifically intended as a screening examination for inherited eye problems. They are used as a tool by dog breeders to select the best candidate dogs to be used for breeding.
New this year is “Family Day” on Saturday, which includes dog show tours, a costume contest, photo booth and a pet photo contest. Additionally, more than 20 vendors from all over the country will be offering dog related items, such as jewelry, collectibles, clothing, grooming and training supplies, custom leads, leashes, collars, dog toys, vitamins and much more.
Going to the dogsWhat: The Old Fort Cluster Dog Show will bring together dog owners and their animals from this area as well as around the country.
When: 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday-Sunday, with Best in Show awarded at the end of each day’s judging.
Where: Memorial Coliseum, 4000 Parnell Ave.
Cost: Free, but people are asked to bring a pet food item for donation to Community Harvest Food Bank of Northeast Indiana. Parking is $4 in the main lot and $8 in the preferred lot.
For more about the Old Fort Cluster Dog Show and to view breed showing times, visit www.neikc.org.