CAPITAL CAT SHOW
By Mark Hannon
In the late 1970s there were a
dozen shows each season in metropolitan Washington, DC. Most had so-so entries,
media attention was non-existent with so many shows vying for attention, and
there was very little gate. The lack of entries and lack of gate meant few
vendors were interested in the shows and the lack of income meant these shows
were bare-bone events.
Mark Hannon had a dream of an
extravaganza of a show with large entries, large gate, and lots of vendors.
Each club in the area was asked to send a representative to an organizational
meeting to discuss a joint-venture hosted by all the area clubs. There was a
great deal of enthusiasm for such a show and the clubs all agreed to band
together to work on it. Donna Thompson attended that first meeting and
suggested a name for this show: National Capital Cat Show since Washington was
known as the National Capital area. Each ring would be sponsored by a different
club. While that proved to be a nightmare for the CFA Central Office, it gave
the clubs ‘ownership’ of this show. No one club would be sponsoring this show;
it would be a joint-venture of all the clubs in the area.
Seed money was obtained
from three local clubs whose shows made money and who agreed to help get us
started with each kicking in $500: The Cat Fanciers of Washington, Capital Cat
Fanciers, and The Cat’s Meow. These three clubs loaned us money with the
understanding that they would be repaid from the proceeds of the first show.
That, of course, was on the assumption that the show made money.
With $1500.00 we were off and
running on a wing and a prayer.
Kenny Currle (pictured below)
found a great show hall.
It was a large
recreation center that was attached to a local school in Arlington VA, a suburb
of Washington DC. The hall had 50,000 square feet of space and had never been
used for a cat show before but was the site of the county fair, an antiques show
and a couple similar events. While rent was affordable, there were a couple
down sides to use of this facility: (1) because it was part of a school, we
could not gain access until after-school events finished with the hall at 5pm,
(2) because it was surrounded by a local housing development, noise restrictions
were in place which prohibited set-up lasting beyond 11pm, and (3) there was
very limited parking. Even so, the positives far out-weighed the negatives. It
was a great venue for a large cat show. The first show was scheduled for
September, 1981. Mark Hannon served as the show manager and Erika Graf-Webster
was the entry clerk. The "start up" committee began
spreading the word and exhibitors as well as vendors supported the show from
near and far.
That first year the show
attracted more than 400 entries, more vendors than any local show had seen, a
very respectable gate, and wonderful reviews. The show created a lot of
excitement not only locally, but throughout CFA. It was, however, a very
expensive show to produce and the “profit” that first year was too small to
repay the loans from the three local clubs. The clubs were understanding and
were willing to wait for their money. They did not have to wait long. The
second show in 1982 was a financial success and the loans were repaid.
The show quickly gained a
national reputation for its large entry, large gate,
and numerous vendors.
It was an “event” not to be missed. By 1985 Kal Kan signed on as a corporate
sponsor. That relationship lasted for eight years. Friskies followed as a
corporate sponsor and that relationship pre-dated their relationship with CFA.
Friskies remained a corporate sponsor through 2003. Corporate sponsors made it
possible to spend more money on advertising the show via local newspapers, radio
and television. For a number of years the show had a full-page ad in the
Washington Post which cost $10,000. Clearly, such expenditures are not possible
for the typical cat show and was only possible thanks to corporate assistance.
The show has consistently been
one of CFA’s largest. Many changes have taken place over the years which keep
the show fresh and interesting. The show has expanded from a six-ring show to
an eight-ring show. The biggest change was in our show hall. After sixteen
years in that recreation center, the show needed a larger venue, more parking to
accommodate the gate, and more time for set-up. Certainly, back at its
conception it was not anticipated that we would actually outgrow a 50,000 square
foot show hall. That original show hall was full of memories. Who can forget
the fire bells going off every year as mischievous kids set off the alarm as a
prank, which often meant the exhibitors had to evacuate. While there was never
a fire, just a prank, you never knew for sure and the fire department usually
required us to vacate the premises.
The show moved to the Dulles
Expo Center in 1998. It was a much more expensive hall but if the show was to
grow, it was necessary. This was a former store that had been turned into an
exposition hall. A big advantage, in addition to more space, was plenty of
parking and three years ago a hotel was opened adjacent to the show hall. The
show has evolved from being hosted by a dozen clubs to being a show at which all
the local cat fanciers are welcome as workers. Rather than hold monthly
meetings like many clubs, the group working on the show gets together once a
year to vote on judges for future shows, discuss the financial report from the
most recent show, and toss around ideas. We consistently have 35 - 40 fanciers
attending this annual meeting. Working in this manner requires a very organized
show manager who does not micro-manage and the show has been blessed with many
over the years.
have also been fluid over the years. As some people move on, others seem to
naturally take their place. In fact, there are only two of the original crew
still working on the show today: Mark Hannon and Donna Jean Thompson.
Over the years the show has
been fine-tuned, tweaked, and improved. From our early days we have had a
well-received hospitality suite on Saturday night to insure our many fly-in
exhibitors have something to do. Special recognition is given at the close of
the show to our highest scoring kitten, championship cat, and premiership cat.
For many years we have had a Parade of Breeds with a variety of non-officiating
judges handling the task of educating the public about CFA’s many exciting
breeds. Those serving as chief educator have included Judy Thomas, Jan Stevens,
Ellyn Honey, Ray Pinder, and in 2005 Jeri Zottoli. Many breeds are also
represented with a breed booth to further educate the public. Junior
Showmanship is an integral part of our show each year. At our 2004 show the
Ambassadors Program had it’s kick-off. In 2005 the Agility competition will be
yet another exciting addition to our show.
If you have attended one of
our shows in the past, you know what a great show it is and how much excitement
permeates our hall. We’re sure you will want to return. If you have not yet
experienced our show, you owe it to yourself to attend. The show consistently
has one of the largest entries in CFA, an incredible number of vendors to tempt
you, and a gate that is the envy of many other shows.
This year National Capital
is celebrating our 25th anniversary and we are working to make it
even more special than usual. For information on our next show, check out our