A year after getting canceled for the first time in 43 years, the Lompoc Valley Kennel Club’s dog shows will return to Ryon Park this summer for what organizers are hoping is a rebirth of one of the Lompoc Valley’s longest-running events.
The shows are scheduled to take place over four days from Thursday, July 25, through Sunday, July 28.
The event will retain a lot of the same aspects as in past years, but the 2019 edition also will usher in new features aimed at increasing participation.
Those will include the return of the obedience and rally competitions, a new “pee wee” event for children to try their hand at dog showing, and a public art contest in which the winning piece will be featured on the cover of this year’s event program.
Terry Bearman, president of the Lompoc Valley Kennel Club, acknowledged that some of the issues that led to the 2018 cancellation are still present, but he said the new membership makeup of the club has him feeling “very optimistic” about the event’s future.
“Everybody has been very interested in if we’re coming back and how we’re doing, so there’s been a lot of interest; it’s not like we’ve been forgotten at all,” Bearman said this week.
“Lompoc is a very favored show and once we are back on track and get things going how they should be again, we should be fine.
“This year will give us an idea,” he added, “but we’re still planning a show for 2020 and 2021 just to give us a fair shot — three years and we’ll see what happens.”
Two of the biggest reasons cited for last year’s cancellation were the conditions at Ryon Park — particularly the many gopher holes that could injure dogs and handlers — and the dwindling membership within the Lompoc Valley Kennel Club.
Bearman, who is the last remaining original member of the club, acknowledged that the gopher holes still are problematic, but he said event organizers are working with the city and plan to fill the holes with sand leading up to and during the shows.
As for the membership issue, Bearman noted that he and his fellow club members were able to find new people and get the finances in place to restart the shows, albeit with a stricter budget.
The goal for this year, he said, is to get at least 650 dogs entered.
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“They’ve been working very hard with me to get this club going again, so I owe them all a bunch of appreciation,” Bearman said of his fellow kennel club members.
The obedience and rally competitions will be the first for the Lompoc dog shows in nearly two decades.
The events were phased out due to a lack of interest from within the club about 20 years ago.
That interest has not only regenerated within the club, according to event organizers, but the competitions have also grown in popularity at shows around the country.
“People are very interested in not only seeing the beautiful dogs but, also, seeing them perform and behave and seeing the kinds of things they can do,” said Beth Bailey, secretary of the Lompoc Valley Kennel Club.
“We’re trying to incorporate whatever we can into this show to get people interested,” she added.
The “pee wee” event is another example of that effort.
That first-time exhibition, scheduled for 6 p.m. Saturday, July 27, will allow for children to show dogs, whether the animal is their pet or borrowed from a friend or family member.
The dogs do not need to be registered with the American Kennel Club, and the show organizers will even offer stuffed dogs for those who don’t have a dog.
“It will give the youngsters a chance to see if maybe one day they might be interested in [showing dogs],” Bearman said.
The painting contest for the program cover, which is also serving as a fundraiser for the Lompoc Valley Kennel Club, is taking place this month.
The club is seeking “an exciting piece of original artwork that showcases either a single dog or multiple dogs at work, rest, or play,” according to a call to artists put out by the club.
The contest, which has a $20 entry fee, is open to the public with no age restrictions, and the style of painting is up to the artist.
The deadline to submit artwork is Friday, May 31.
The winner will be chosen by the club members, but all of the paintings will be included in a public exhibition in the front windows at South Side Coffee Company during July.
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Lompoc Mayor Jenelle Osborne said she was "very pleased" to see the show return.
"The dog show has contributed to the local economy for decades in many ways; from filling hotel rooms and restaurants to purchasing fuel, dog supplies and even bottles of wine during the week the event is here," she said Tuesday.
"The benefits to the city are increased hotel and sales tax revenue as well as improving the quality of life for our residents and employees, so it is vital to the community," she said. "And it’s a fun and unique experience for all."
Bailey, a dog show veteran, said she was looking forward to beginning this new era for the Lompoc Valley Kennel Club.
“This whole show for many, many years has been something that’s so looked forward to by a lot of people all over the country because this is such a beautiful area and such an awesome venue and the people in the city are kind and look forward to having the 'dog people' here,” she said.
“I’m excited,” she added. “We’re going to probably start on a reasonable-sized scale and see if we can build it up to its former glory. I’m very optimistic.”
Willis Jacobson covers the city of Lompoc for Lee Central Coast Newspapers. Follow him on Twitter @WJacobsonLR.
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