WENATCHEE — After making its mark for the last 20 years at Walla Walla Point Park, the Wenatchee Kennel Club is moving its big September dog show to roomier digs at the Chelan County Expo Center in Cashmere.
The Wenatchee Kennel Club will celebrate its golden anniversary this year with history-focused exhibits and, possibly, a birthday bash in November.
Club President Chuck St. John said cake and sparkling cider will be served at the club’s All Breed Dog Show, Sept. 17-18 at the Chelan County Expo Center.
Club officers have poured over old photographs, newspaper clippings and minutes from past meetings to put together some nostalgic viewing at its dog show booth.
The club’s 125 members include both fierce competitors and casual dog enthusiasts. That’s up from 25 members when St. John joint the club 15 years ago.
Club members are busy with a variety of training classes four to five nights a week, three to four hours each at the club’s East Wenatchee arena, St. John said.
“We even have a couple of members who don’t have dogs,” he said. “They like dogs and being around people with dogs. For me, as president, it’s fun to be able to step back and watch it.”
— Christine Pratt, World staff
“It was a gut-wrenching decision for us to make,” said Club President Chuck St. John Thursday. “But on the flip side, there are some things we can do at the fairgrounds that we can’t do at the park.”
The club’s All Breed Dog Show is the second biggest in Eastern Washington after a Spokane show. It will attract 830 entries Sept. 17 and 18, along with their entourage of owners, handlers and vendor booths.
St. John says the club and its judges love the Chelan County PUD’s Walla Walla Point Park, which is on the Columbia River and a few minutes north of downtown Wenatchee.
But he said they need more asphalt for contestants’ RVs and general, off-grass parking than both the park and the Town Toyota Center parking lot, right across the street, have to offer.
“We couldn’t accommodate everyone, when cars are taken into account, too. It’s just not physically large enough,” St. John said.
RVs — some very large — have traditionally parked on the park’s lawn, leaving tire marks behind for PUD park crews to repair.
Unusually heavy rains before and during last year’s show exacerbated the problem, as did PUD budget cuts.
“When we pulled 120 RVs off the grounds, there was almost water standing,” he said. “There was a huge amount of damage done.”
The damage makes park crews scramble to ensure the park is in good condition for sports tournaments that regularly happen there.
St. John said the club would have reimbursed the PUD for repair work, but that still wouldn’t have solved the space problem.
“The PUD loves the dog show. They’re not kicking us out. They just can’t have RVs parked on the grass anymore,” he said.
The Chelan County Fairgrounds has both size and services.
About 140 RV hookups are available there, including water, sewer and electricity. At Walla Walla, contestants had to rely on their RV’s generators.
The grounds also have large barns. Most of the events will be indoors, sheltered from sun, rain and wind — all problems from time to time at past shows, St. John said.
The extra space and utilities will allow organizers to set up grooming and bathing areas.
Total entries are down this year, a trend occurring in dog shows across the state, St. John said, as travelers balk at $4/gallon gasoline and the uncertain economy. The change of venue may also have caused a few to sit this year out to see how it goes.
“I’ve had judges who’d traveled the world say that Walla Walla Point Park is arguably one of the best sites in the entire country, because of its atmosphere, it’s ambience,” St. John said. “At the new site, the dog show’s going to have a different feel, but we’re excited.”
The show’s schedule is posted on the club’s website, www.wenatcheekennelclub.com.
Christine Pratt: 665-1173