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Clusters and Gasoline – Where Are We Now?

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76 – July 2019

by Wayne Cavanaugh

The things we do for dog shows! Like scores of other kids in dog show families, at 4AM, on government assigned mornings, I waited in very long lines in the family station-wagon for our ration of gasoline. I imagined every dog show kid in line was sitting like I was, with a stack of AKC Gazettes and Popular Dog magazines planning gas consumption strategies to sync with the dog show calendar.

It was 1973, the year of the oil embargo and resulting gas shortage. Everything from the economy to everyday life was affected, including dog shows. It was farewell to the norm of two-day dog show weekends, and hello to the advent of clusters.

Feeling the pinch of ensuing gas price increases, dog clubs rallied for a way to keep their shows thriving, or at least solvent. The AKC stepped up and made some difficult choices. Some of the new AKC rules were not without controversy but proved to be creative and necessary. The biggest rule change allowed clubs from an extended territory to get together and hold combined events.

Three- and four-day weekends at a single venue – clusters as they became known – successfully addressed exhibitor’s gasoline concerns. Over time, the gas crisis faded and the big rigs arrived. Clusters, however, remained popular for two key reasons: convenience of not breaking down camp to change show grounds every night, and keeping clubs solvent by sharing everything from venue costs to, perhaps most importantly, judges, in order to cut expenses as entries slowly declined.

I was recently at one of my favorite clusters just a few hours from home near Chicago at Grayslake. The Grayslake shows thrive for a few central reasons. The people who run the shows are serious, lifelong participants at every level of the sport. They have earned the sport’s respect and attract the best judges. That’s a big deal. Combined with three all-breed, two group shows, and more than 60 specialties over four days, it all adds up to one big thing – the quality of the dogs is as good as you’ll see anywhere. The hound group alone was a gift, some of the best hounds in the country all in one place.

Click here to read the complete article
76 – July 2019

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  • July 2020