For the last two evenings I have been caught up watching the Super Bowl of dog shows – the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show. This year marked the 139th year of the show, making it the second longest continuously running sporting event behind the Kentucky Derby. Each year, 192 breeds and more than 2,700 dogs compete. Watching the dogs being primped and paraded around the ring, I began thinking about the unique logistics needed to pull off this incredible competition.
Here are just a few of the organizational details:
Multiple Venues – During the day, the judging of the breeds and benching of the dogs (stalls where the dogs are kept during the competition) takes place at The Piers in New York. Group judging and Best in Show take place in the evening more than 20 blocks away at Madison Square Garden. This means that dogs and their handlers must travel between The Piers and Madison Square Garden if they make the cut! It also means that show organizers must manage the details of multiple venues and keep constant communication between the two.
Back Stage – The Westminster Dog Show is one of the few “benched” shows in the country. Dogs are required to be at their “bench” at all times if they are not in the ring, being groomed, or taking a bathroom break (see below). It allows spectators to get an up close look at the breeds and interact with the handlers. With more than 2,700 dogs, attendees, press and owners, this makes for a very busy back stage to coordinate.
Power Requirements for Grooming – Looking your best is key to the competition. Dogs at the show take anywhere from fifteen minutes to six hours to get their look just right. Grooming stations are set up back stage and power is included in the entry fee.
Waste removal – Since dogs are in the building for up to 12 hours a day, special cedar chip “bio break” areas are established throughout the venues as relief stations.
Emergency Vet Services – Dogs travel from all over the world to attend the show. Some have never seen snow before or have had to relieve themselves on the concrete jungle of New York City. With so many dogs present, onsite vet services are available for any tummy aches or injury.
Carpet – The iconic Madison Square Garden hardwood must be pulled up, making room for thousands of square feet of the famous green carpet.
Flowers and Signage – Miles of purple pipe and drape with the show logo line the main floor and ancillary rings; massive flower arrangements decorate the arena and each breed has their own identifying signage for the competition.
Dog Friendly Accommodations – Registrants of the show receive special discount rates at nearby pet-friendly hotels. The Hotel Pennsylvania, across the street from the Garden, is one of the most renowned, offering a pet concierge, doggie room service and a canine spa complete with grooming and soaking stations.
Keeping all of this effort and expense in mind, it makes the win that much sweeter for this year’s Best in Show, the beagle, Miss P. Congratulations Miss P!