Monday, September 5, 2011

Move to the Middle or Rove? The ABC National Specialty Show

Editor's note:  Welcome to our multi-part series on the timeless subject of whether the ABC national specialty should move...or rove...or stay right where it is.  By all means, make your voice heard in the comments section at the bottom of each blog or drop me a line at Also, please note that there is a Facebook group devoted to this subject – Boxer Nationals Venue Concerns.
My now ex-husband and I attended our first ABC in 1972. It was held on the 22nd floor of the Statler Hilton Hotel in Manhattan in February, to coincide with Westminster – in retrospect a not very dog-friendly venue.  But we were searching for a foundation bitch for our as-yet-unnamed kennel, and were like a pair of kids in a candy store among all the beautiful and famous boxers that we had previously only seen in pictures in the Boxer Review.  We watched the future Ch Holly Lane’s Winter Forecast win the Futurity under Carl Wood with Dick Baum on the lead, and then were thrilled when Larry Downey pointed to Ch Scher-Khoun’s Shadrack, shown by his breeder/owner, Shirley de Boer, for Best of Breed!  We had seen a number of Shadrack’s offspring on the Florida January Circuit, and had already decided that we wanted to start out in boxers with a Shadrack daughter.

The following year, an 11 weeks old Shadrack daughter arrived at the Tampa Int'l Airport via Air Canada from Toronto – the future Ch Scher-Khoun’s Tarantella – to be the foundation of our newly named Scarborough Kennels. And that year and most years thereafter, we continued to attend the ABC Specialty, still in Manhattan in February, until it moved to an armory in New Jersey in 1977.  Finally in 1980, the ABC moved to a May date and to the Holiday Inn North in Newark, NJ. With one exception, the ABC stayed in Newark till 1995, when the ABC membership voted to move to the Holiday Inn FSK in Frederick, MD.

Unfortunately, Frederick proved to be no more satisfactory as a national venue than Newark, and the unhappiness of the ABC’s western members with a supposedly “national” club that appeared to be permanently fixed in the Northeast, always seething just beneath the surface, finally came to a boil. In an article entitled “The Next Great Controversy: Moving the ABC” that appeared in the 1998 ABC Issue of the old Boxer Underground (, this is how we described what happened:

“Somebody finally did it. At the ABC membership meeting in May ‘98, Dr. Paul Gerard, the 1997-98 regional ABC board member from California, tossed a bombshell into the closing minutes of the meeting just as everyone was stifling yawns, glancing surreptitiously at their watches, and hoping that someone would make a motion to adjourn. Dr. Gerard made a motion that the entire ABC membership be allowed to vote on whether or not to move the ABC to the center of the country. Even though the meeting room was packed with northeastern ABC members, his "Move the ABC" motion passed quite handily. And that means that ABC members and member clubs can soon expect to receive a ballot asking for their vote on yet another controversial issue - one that may make "Ear Wars" look like a minor disagreement over which shade of blue to paint the guest bedroom.

“As long as we’ve been members of ABC - over 17 years now - there have been rumblings about moving the ABC out of the Northeast to a location more accessible to all exhibitors. This dissatisfaction came to a head when several car thefts and muggings made it plain that the Newark, NJ site was not only esthetically unappealing, it was downright unsafe as a venue for our national specialty. At that point, after giving the membership a brief period of time to check out and propose alternatives to Newark, the ABC sent out ballots for what amounted to a "show site popularity contest,” and FrederickMD won. In all fairness, no center-of-the-country site was proposed (Ohio and Pennsylvania were as close to "centrally located" as it got), and I don’t think anybody realized that the Holiday Inn FSK could not accommodate all would-be ABC attendees without utilizing its "sister motel," the Holiday Inn Express (formerly the Super 8), which was NOT as conveniently located to the Holiday Inn FSK as advertised, especially if you flew into the ABC with dogs or without a rental vehicle. Be that as it may, ABC members once again have an opportunity to select a different location for our national specialty.”  

And there you have it.  The room exploded, the ABC secretary noted in her meeting minutes that Dr Gerard had proposed a move to “Central America” (that was good for many a joke during the following year), and the ABC membership voted 2 to 1 to move our national specialty show to the center of the US despite all the deprecating remarks about cornfields and tornadoes that were flying through cyberspace at the time. However, because the ABC, through a series of misadventures and foot-dragging, never did get to the center of the country, the controversy continues unabated, complete with attempts to suggest that Dr Gerard really meant the demographic, rather than the geographic center of the US (he didn’t), and a stringent set of show site criteria that disqualifies many of the motels/hotels that are willing to host a dog show right off the bat.

In the meantime, things have changed since 1998:  The airlines offer few direct/non-stop flights these days; some airlines have stopped accepting animals as excess baggage at all; some airlines refuse to fly “snub-nosed” breeds like boxers, bulldogs and Persian cats, and those that still do, charge accordingly (and outrageously). And for motor home and minivan drivers alike, I don’t have to tell you that the cost of gasoline and diesel fuel has gone through the roof.

In short, although I voted for the move to the middle 13 years ago, I am no longer so sure that the center of the country would be the fairest and most accessible venue for the majority of ABC goers. Despite the almost insurmountable problems of setting up a roving national system for a parent club that’s institutionally steeped in tradition and very much opposed to change, a roving ABC national is looking better and better all the time.

Please join us later this week for Part II of this series.  Thanks for reading!


Most people are mirrors, reflecting the moods and emotions of the times; few are windows, bringing light to bear on the dark corners where troubles fester. The whole purpose of education is to turn mirrors into windows. - Sydney J. Harris, journalist and author (1917-1986) 


  1. In 2000, I contacted various clubs that had roving specialities to see how they managed it. I still have that information. Most clubs rove by region and a club within that region steps up to do a huge amount of the work. The work is directed by a national show committee, that includes a pretty inclusive "how to". I have always asked the question, how many members exhibit at the national? The handlers will go where the judges are. Because of the change in flying habits, and various costs, a roving national speciality seems to make the most sense. Though, I don't know that the ABC has enough members willing to do all the work. There are things that people like. But, there isn't that much that is carved in stone. We love our breed. Other breeds doing fabulous roving specialities. Change is a very difficult thing.

  2. Stephanie Abraham was having trouble posting a comment, so asked me to post this one for her:
    I belong to another Club that roves for its Nationals. To say that a tremendous amount of work has to be done by the "host" regional club is a great understatement. It all CAN be done, with an overseer group from ABC...but it remains to be seen how many ABC member clubs will step up. If they do, and the Board is willing to change the structuring of the show, then we can certainly rove. Many breeds do--but if you talk to those that do, you will hear mixed reviews--some venues work, some do not. Entries vary a lot, geography to geography; for example, the Dobes are back in Fitchburg, MA again because some other sites did not gel well, etc. etc. All of that may not matter to us--depends on the membership and its willingness to devote a couple of years of work in each region that holds a show.
    Personally I have my doubts about roving in OUR particular club. Many of our Regionals have been disappointing efforts from the standpoint of local organization and the entry support of our members. Yes, I know that the Regional is not the National...I'm just not sure that ABC as club is going to be happy with roving.
    Having said that, I will certainly be there, wherever it roams...or doesn't.