Chicago-Area Ferret Show To Celebrate 25 Years

This year is the 25th anniversary for the Greatest Ferret Show On Earth, and attendees can expect lots of ferrets and fun.

ribbon awards at Greatest Ferret Show On Earth 2011
Competing is fun, but winning a ribbon at the Greatest Ferret Show On Earth is even more fun.

October 12, 2013, is the day and the Odeum Expo Center in Villa Park, Illinois, is the place for the Greatest Ferret Show On Earth. The show is celebrating its 25th year. Twenty five years is quite an accomplishment, that’s the lifetime of three or four ferrets combined. The show is organized by and benefits the Greater Chicago Ferret Association, which has rescued more than 7,000 ferrets since it opened its doors.

“I wish I knew what that first show was like!” said Valerie Michalski, co-show director. Although she didn’t attend that first show, she’s sure a few things haven’t changed. Namely, that people are just as passionate about their ferrets and that current show volunteers will be just as nervous about putting on an enjoyable event as past volunteers.

To commemorate the 25th year, volunteers have been working on several projects. One of the projects is collecting all past show book covers. “We are currently still looking for two show book covers from 1993 and 2007. If anyone reading this has them, please email me.” 

A limited edition poster with a print run of 50 is also being worked on, along with a show T-shirt. A cake-cutting ceremony is also planned, and everyone who attends will be able to snack on a complimentary piece of cake or a cookie or cupcake as part of the celebration.

Michalski said that the show averaged 200 to 250 attendees in the past few years. “Last year National Geographic Wild filmed an episode of their series ‘Spoiled Rotten Pets’ at our ferret show,” she said. “The episode aired this past April as ‘Ferrets and Tiaras.’ The show has grown in attendance each year, and with this added publicity, we are hopeful for the continued trend.”

cover of 1988 Greatest Ferret Show On Earth show book
© Courtesy Greatest Ferret Show On Earth
The show that started it all took place in 1988, and this was the show book cover.

The Greatest Ferret Show On Earth is an American Ferret Association-sanctioned show, so the conformation events are some of the highlights.

“I think the overall ‘best of’ award presentations, sponsored by Ferret Depot, are the most anticipated,” Michalski said. These include: Best of Title classes, Best of Title Opposite, Best of Specialty classes and the Greatest Ferret On Earth.

Anyone wishing to enter their ferret in the conformation events must hurry, as the registration deadline is this Saturday, September 21.  “All entries must be received via email on this day, or if mailed, postmarked with this date,” Michalski said. “Unfortunately, any received after cannot be accepted.”

She said that 100 ferrets are registered, but a flurry of last-minute registrations is expected. It’s really not too late to enter.

All ferrets entering the show hall must be up-to-date on rabies and canine distemper virus vaccinations and show proof of negative ADV test results. One change this year is that proof of canine distemper vaccination or an acceptable titer result is required instead of only completion of a canine distemper waiver. See the registration packet at the show website for full details.

If you don’t wish to enter your ferret in conformation rings, there is still plenty to do at the show.

“The only pre-registration needed is for Title and Specialty ferret classes,” Michalski said. “The Ferret Costume Contest and Picture Contest are mainly day-of sign up.”

The picture contest is new this year, as is a silent auction for art. Michalski explained a bit about the art auction. “Local, national and international artists sketched, in different styles and mediums, favorite ferret pictures that were taken in the shelter during the past few years. We are so appreciative of the artists’ time and effort!”

This year’s raffle has some pretty amazing prizes, including a 32-inch, flat-screen TV and a Ferret Nation 182 cage. If you don’t get lucky in the raffle, numerous vendors at the event have items for both ferrets and owners to use or enjoy, some of them quite unique.

Adding to the fun this year is a professional entertainer. “We are very excited about the lunchtime performance by Rick Saucedo, legendary Elvis impersonator,” Michalski said. “Rick is a ferret owner and longtime GCFA member and shelter supporter. He is very generous with his time and talent.”

The show is the largest fundraising event for the GCFA. Michalski guessed that in recent years the show has raised between $3,000 and $5,500 per year. “Unlike many shelters, the Greater Chicago Ferret Association Shelter is a free-standing storefront, so rent and utilities are a huge expense and obstacle each month.”

This year’s show will be remembered for being the 25th anniversary, but it will also be remembered because of the outbreak of canine distemper recently at the shelter. Since late August, the outbreak has taken the lives of almost 30 ferrets and generated medical bills exceeding $5,000. Michalski said canine distemper is something everyone, especially animal organizations, should be concerned about.

“Heightened awareness is the first defense,” Michalski said. “It can be tracked in on shoes and carried on clothes unknowingly, but it has a short life span after it dries, and dies within 2 to 3 hours without a host.” She added that people may not know animals like raccoons can be carriers.

“We are not the first shelter to experience it, and unfortunately we won’t be the last,” Michalski said. “It is no less safe for anyone to travel to our show venue than in previous years. Actually, it may be safer due to awareness, so we are very hopeful the outbreak and quarantine of the shelter will not deter people from coming and supporting the shelter in its greatest time of need.”

The show committee addressed possible concerns about the distemper outbreak and attending the show by stating that the Odeum is a 30-minute drive from the shelter, no ferrets from the shelter attend the show and any volunteer who has been at the shelter within 12 hours of the show will not attend.

For updates about the show, visit the Greatest Ferret Show On Earth Facebook page or its website.

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