An outsider may ask why the Del Valle weekend is so universally regarded as a highlight in the dog show calendar. It’s been a contender for the “Show of the Year” title in the Dogs In Review Achievement Awards more often than most. There are other great dog shows in the US, even several in California: Palm Springs and Santa Barbara, for instance, have the advantage in glamour and name recognition, and Summerfest in Ventura, which was among the biggest shows in the country last year, has a location right next to both ocean and freeway that’s nearly unbeatable.
What really sets Del Valle apart is a focus on breed judging that’s very rare in the American dog world. Sure, Groups and BIS are exciting to watch, but the reason that’s the case here is largely that Del Valle attracts so many good dogs that competition at the breed level is already meaningful — and the BOB winners as a result are usually of such quality that the groups are extremely competitive.
In the days when it was still possible for a show to stand alone yet attract both national recognition and big entries, the Del Valle Dog Club of Livermore weekend consisted of just one big all-breed Sunday show, supported by a number of specialties on the grounds the day before. When a second DVDCL all-breed show was added, it was decided, wisely but unusually, to hold it on Monday instead of pushing the specialties from their Saturday spot. A surprisingly large number of exhibitors make the effort to stay for the Monday show, and when Skyline Dog Fanciers of San Mateo County joined forces with Del Valle two years ago to form the Harvest Moon Classic, they agreed to hold their shows on Thursday and Friday.
This adds up to a five-day show “weekend,” with specialties still being held on the plum Saturday date. Most people stay and watch the judging that day even if “their” breed isn’t one of the 40-something that have a specialty, but I understand at least some out-of-state visitors went on a wine-tasting tour in nearby Sonoma and Napa instead.
The four all-breed shows attracted 7,870 entries between them. Estimating a conservative average of about 50 dogs per specialty on Saturday (several had 100 to 150 dogs; others were smaller) puts total entries at about 10,000 over the five days. Skyline had 1,692 entries on Thursday, 2,078 on Friday. Del Valle attracted 2,510 entries on Sunday, 1,590 on Monday. Some of the bigger breed entries at the Sunday all-breed show were Rhodesian Ridgebacks 104, Golden Retrievers 98, Labrador Retrievers 73, Rottweilers 71, English Cocker Spaniels 62, Whippets 55 and Bernese Mountain Dogs 54.
The Alameda County Fairgrounds in Pleasanton are indeed pleasant, and so spacious that you need either very long legs or a vehicle of some kind to get around — especially if you show more than one breed. I’ve been going to Del Valle for more years than I care to remember, and I still keep finding buildings and outdoor ring areas I didn’t even know existed.
Group judging at these shows alternates between outdoors on “The Knoll” and indoors in one of the Exhibition buildings. The weather went from warm and sunny to cool and damp, with a few showers that forced some judging to move indoors. Several of the country’s top dogs competed; the only one to win three groups was the German Wirehaired Pointer GCh. Mt View’s Ripsnorter Silver Charm. BIS went to four different dogs, all among the top contenders in their groups nationwide.
The first day Betty Regina Leininger found her BIS winner in the Pekingese GCh. Windemere’s Dusting of White at Pevyne, with reserve BIS to a new Kerry Blue Terrier from New Zealand, Ch. Kamagh Too Busy Bein Fabulous. Friday’s winner under June Penta was the 8-year-old Afghan Hound GCh. Thaon’s Mowgli, with reserve BIS to the Pembroke Welsh Corgi GCh. Coventry Allure At Wyndstar.
On Sunday, with the weekend’s biggest entry, BIS was judged by Robert Stein, who selected the Standard Poodle GCh. Brighton Lakeridge Encore as his winner ahead of the Bouvier des Flandres GCh. Hatch Tillie de la Salsa. Finally, BIS on Monday under Lawrence Terricone went to the Bulldog GCh. Itsa Brix, with the Bouvier taking another Reserve BIS. He was, in fact, BIS at this show last year. One of the highlights of the weekend was the Take The Lead function on Saturday night. I asked Florence Males, who was in charge of the fundraiser, to provide some specifics.
From Florence Males:
It was great to be able to host an event to support Take The Lead in the West, as so many in our sport who needed help in this part of the country have been given assistance. This was the first Take the Lead event for the Harvest Moon Classic. The only other event was in 2008 and was held solely under the Del Valle banner.
Approximately 200 people attended, including Take The Lead board members Jeff Pepper, Dan Nechemias, Mari-Beth O’Neill, Mary Miller, Cindy Vogels, Betty-Anne Stenmark and Florence Males. The evening was made possible by the generous donations of several people. Many members of both clubs helped, as well as Janet Allen with table decorations, and Sandi McCue worked hard on getting donations for the raffle and silent auction. It’s hard to mention all the helpful individuals without missing someone. Betty-Anne Stenmark came up with the “Comedy Night” theme and hired the comedians (“with a canine bent”) Jeff Applebaum, Kellen Erskine and Tim Babb.
Donations came from the many friends of Take The Lead: concessionaires, show photographers, magazines, authors, dog food companies, wineries, specialty clubs — even Macy’s, which donated a sapphire and diamond bracelet. Dan Nechemias of Argyle Winery supplied all the wine for the evening.
A lot of different people donated items, but here are some that stand out in my mind: Edward Boyes’ sculpture of a Brussels Griffon; artwork by Debbie Claussen of a Golden Retriever; a Maud Earl print of an English Toy Spaniel, donated by Johnny Shoemaker from the estate of Tom Conway; accommodation for the Santa Barbara shows next year donated by the Santa Barbara KC; and unusual artwork by Bill McFadden. It was a memorable evening!