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Show Article

NATIONAL 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 moneyWith $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.  Our workers 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 web site: http://www.nationalcapitalcatshow.com

 

 



 

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