A Year of Many Changes
The long weekend started with Simi Valley on Thursday and Friday, August 26 and 27. Santa Barbara was on Saturday and Sunday, August 28 and 29. Like most shows in 2021, many adjustments had to be made because of Covid.
The biggest obstacle we encountered long before the shows was our host hotel. We have used the Pepper Tree for almost 20 years. We had a block of close to 90 rooms in recent years. The hotel at one time had been two separate hotels, but for many years was owned as one. This winter after the owner died, the family sold the hotel, and it again was divided into two separate properties.
One of the properties has been closed since the new owners are not sure what will be done with it. The remaining Pepper Tree, which is open, has less than 100 rooms. Although they no longer accept dogs, they made an exception just for the show weekend. When they said they would only give us a guaranteed block of 25 rooms, this made for a huge problem. Santa Barbara is a major tourist area and very few hotels now accept dogs. The local members decided to put up the judges and members at the Hilton Garden Inn, which was quite close to the airport in Goleta. This worked well in that it was still within 15 minutes of the show. It had a restaurant, and there were several very good eateries within walking distance, since most of the judges did not have rental cars.
Putting the judges and officials there meant we could have rooms at the Pepper Tree for the exhibitors. They even honored the block rate to more than the 25 promised rooms. Also being the busiest weekend of the year, any hotel is booked to full capacity in advance. The Pepper Tree has a huge grass area around the pool for walking the dogs and is about a five-minute drive to the show grounds.
Traditionally, the Santa Barbara Kennel Club always has several top international judges. Just before entries were due to close, we found that the foreign judges would not be able to make their assignments. Bruce Schwartz, the show chair, had to find replacements who were good judges, available and had not judged in the area very recently. The entry was up about 300 dogs per day, which meant nearly all the judges had full loads and some overloads also occurred. Luckily, some of our members could help with overloads.
Many of our members live on the East Coast and steward at the show. This year due to Covid and some other health issues, many members could not be at the show. Jean Austin was involved in all aspects of the show, and she passed away after the last one. Connie Miller also recently passed and was a major figure in running the show. Anita O’Berg, the chief steward, begged and borrowed many friends to help steward this year. Like all shows, it has become harder to find stewards than it is to find judges.
Ryan Koob and his large crew have set up the show for many years and had been responsible for a lot of the rental equipment. Sergio Brown and his company called the Crew stepped up, as Ryan went out of business. Santa Barbara is not the size of some huge shows, but it is more work. Most shows are set up before the show starts, and torn down after the show. At Santa Barbara on Saturday afternoon, all the rings in the arena have to be dismantled to set up for the Breeders Showcase and the dinner for about 1,300 people. This means the arena is split into two large rings. More than 50 large, round tables seating 10 people each are set up in the area for the reserved guests, plus quite a few smaller bar tables. Setting up so many tables and chairs, getting the tablecloths arranged and flowers on the tables takes a large crew and hours of work. Being a new crew, they had to learn the ropes as they went along. They were quick learners and were so pleasant to deal with all weekend.
Due to the large entry, the arena still had one ring that did not finish until close to 4 p.m. We in past years had the area cleared by 2 p.m. The Breeders Showcase did not start until 7:15 p.m., but dinner and the bar were to be open at 6:15 p.m.
This year the Foreign Bred Competition was moved to Friday after Best in Show. It was scheduled for 6:15 p.m., but was a little later due to BIS finishing later than expected. James Mitchell and David Haddock had an entry of about 40 dogs for the Foreign Bred Competition. They moved very quickly and had their eight placements of first through fourth plus four Awards of Merit finished in about an hour.
There is a café in the building that is used for the four rings indoors. Due to Covid, the café was closed this year. It was very difficult to find a food truck since many have gone out of business. Besides cooked-to-order food they had prepared salads and sandwiches so people could get cold foods without waiting a long time.
Outside the Frenchie ring on Saturday and Sunday we have always had coffee and donuts in the morning and pizza at lunchtime. We could not put out food for people to help themselves to this year, and people could not eat and drink in the building since masks were required indoors. Even the superintendent’s office was moved outside the building this year. The one positive change was that the four individual rings were much larger.
Another unexpected problem: When we all arrived early Wednesday morning there was a backhoe and crew digging a huge hole to repair a septic line. This was the area where we have two rings for breed judging, the groups and Best in Show on Saturday. This meant we could only have one ring in that area. So the groups had to be moved to the other side where the outdoor rings are, which actually worked out better. Being short one breed ring, we used a grassy area in front of the show-grounds office. It was very nice, but a little bit more of a walk for the exhibitors.
On Friday one of the judges was not doing well and was running close to 50 minutes late by 11:50 a.m. The decisions had to be made to relieve him, and a new judge had to be found to judge the remaining 83 dogs of his assignment.
For the past several shows the Bull Terrier and Mini Bull people have a wonderful luncheon set up in the motor-home area. The ladies bring in a lot of food from Costco and also food they have prepared. Again, due to Covid food could not be put out for people to help themselves.
There is a wonderful local Chinese restaurant in town. Madam Lu was contacted on Wednesday in person, and she said she could prepare individual boxed lunches. She put three of the most popular entrees and fried rice in 60 containers and delivered them to the show grounds. The ladies shopped for the liquid refreshments, and everyone enjoyed a wonderful and very successful luncheon.
For many years on Thursday evenings, we had an open house around the pool area at the Pepper Tree. There was a great Chinese buffet and a full open bar with two bartenders. The Pepper Tree would set up everything for us, decorating the area beautifully. About 250 guests always enjoyed the evening so much, but this year, unfortunately, we could no longer do this very festive open house.
At the previous show in 2019, on Friday evening we hosted a dinner for the exhibitors staying at the Pepper Tree. The hotel staff catered the dinner and bar. It was held upstairs in a large room with a wonderful outdoor patio. But this year we also were unable to do this because of Covid and the hotel being very short staffed.
All hotels and restaurants everywhere are short of staff. One evening some foreign friends wanted to drive down to Montecito for dinner. I suggested we go to a place they had dined at the night before, a great Italian restaurant close by in a beautiful setting near the ocean. We could not get a reservation until 9:15 p.m. When we arrived, every table was full except for the small table awaiting our arrival.
Several weeks in advance a friend made a reservation for Lucky’s in Montecito for Sunday night. They have built a large outdoor patio area right out on the street that used to be for parking cars. Every seat was taken, but inside quite a few tables were vacant.
Tom our wonderful caterer was certainly challenged this year. He does the breakfast and lunch each day. This year we could not do a hot lunch on Sunday with people helping themselves to the entrees. It was all prepared, wrapped sandwiches and wrapped desserts. A delicious hot tomato and roasted-pepper soup was served by the staff if desired. At group time, the food refreshments were all individually packaged for the VIP and judges’ dinner. Saturday the staff served the buffet entrees.
For the exhibitors, dinner for roughly 1,300 guests was a real challenge this year. Tom had planned on doing a Mexican dinner, but several ingredients were not even available. He did an Italian theme that consisted of a great lasagna and meatballs in a plastic container, as well as the packaged salads and desserts. It actually made the line for the food move more quickly than in past years, when individual plates had to be made. Because of the rising cost of food and salaries, I am sure he had to raise his prices to us quite a bit. We certainly were very lucky to be able to offer the exhibitors our annual Breeders Showcase dinner and bar this year under difficult times.
Because of the present high cost of rental cars, the judges were asked to not rent cars this year. B.J. Whitlow became our main driver for getting the judges back and forth from the show to the hotel plus some airport pickups. This also entailed getting the judges back to the hotel late Saturday afternoon so they could change their clothes for the evening dinner.
Even the weather was a bit different this year. By the last groups followed by the Breeders Showcase on Saturday, it was a bit chilly. Due to starting the Breeders Showcase slightly later this year it was around 10:30 p.m. by the time we finished taking pictures. Then the crew had to break down the arena and set up again for the rings on Sunday morning.
Normally we have a few exhibitors present from Asia. Because of Covid, most could not travel easily. We did have one young man who came from Korea with several Poms. Even the East Coast exhibitors and handlers had a difficult time flying. Some friends from New York had to rebook on a third airline to finally fly the dogs. Several people made the long, long drive from the East Coast. It took one person three days to drive by himself from the Carolinas. A couple of the handlers made shows along the way.
Throughout the country there were quite a few sets of shows going on at the same time as Santa Barbara. It turned out that the entry was up a lot, and Santa Barbara was the largest set of shows in the country that weekend.
Several breed clubs held their specialties with us for the first time and were very happy about how well they turned out. Specialties that hold concurrent shows get a rebate of $10 per dog, plus $3 per dog for the supported entry. Santa Barbara Kennel Club does everything possible to help the breed clubs financially. In return it helps us get a larger entry for the regular part of the show, which helps us financially as well. It is a good working team effort.
It certainly required many, many changes to hold our show this year, and still hold a high-quality event. This was actually minor compared to Westminster. The Garden moving to an outdoor summer show outside of New York City was a monumental feat. It truly was the “Miracle at Lyndhurst.” No other club could have done what they did.
Not having even half of our members present this year at Santa Barbara certainly was a strain on the committee. The committee was under the gun all day long, with some little problems popping up here and there. The committee is hoping that things will be much easier next year, and we can operate pretty much the same as in past years.
We have to thank all the exhibitors, handlers and breeders for bringing such a large entry and showing great support. Special thanks go to Purina® Pro Plan® for their generous support. Oftentimes we forget that many shows could not do what they do without the help of Purina® Pro Plan®.
In the next issue: Santa Barbara winners and special attractions.