Hundreds of dogs — of many different breeds and varying in shapes and sizes — will once again converge on Lompoc’s Ryon Park this week for a four-day run of primping, preening and posturing, but this year’s event will also mark the end of an era.
The annual dog shows will kick off with specialty competitions Thursday and Friday, and the Lompoc Valley Kennel Club will then present its all-breed dog shows on both Saturday and Sunday.
While the canines will again be the center of attention, this year’s run of shows will also serve as a send-off for one of the most prominent figures behind the scenes.
Event chairman Pete DeSoto, an original Lompoc Valley Kennel Club member who has been a part of every Lompoc dog show since the events began in 1972, has announced that he will step down following the conclusion of this year’s shows.
DeSoto had a brain tumor removed shortly after the 2016 shows ended and noted that he’s been “kind of incapacitated” as he’s rehabbed ever since. Still, he plans to do as much as he can to help in his finale.
“I’ve still been very involved,” he said Monday as dog owners, trainers and handlers began arriving in town. “I’ll be there Wednesday morning to start setting the grounds up.”
He acknowledged that it won’t be easy to walk away from the job that has taken so much of his time and effort over the past five decades.
“It is (bittersweet), but I don’t think I can do the job anymore,” he said. “It’s time for a younger person to take over.”
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Terry Bearman, the president of the Lompoc Valley Kennel Club, said he’ll be sad to see DeSoto go.
“It’s gonna be tough,” Bearman said. “When you lose somebody you’ve been working with for 20 years like that — he’ll be missed big time.”
But, at the same time, Bearman agrees with DeSoto that an infusion of new ideas could prove beneficial for the club and the annual dog shows.
While DeSoto has expressed concern over the past several years about the future of the dog show in Lompoc, Bearman confirmed this week that the event will be back in 2018. He said it may also be expanded next year with the return of an obedience aspect, which hasn’t been included in the Lompoc shows for several years, as well as agility trials.
“There’s a lot of things in the works,” Bearman said.
For the all-breed shows Saturday and Sunday, which will take place from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. both days, organizers are expecting about 700 dogs each day. The park is open to the public each day, including during the specialty shows on Thursday and Friday, at no charge.
Bearman, who has been a part of the Lompoc dog shows for the past two decades, said he’s hopeful that more community members will decide to join the Lompoc Valley Kennel Club and keep it going into the distant future. Anyone interested in joining will be able to pick up information packets at the catalog table at Ryon Park during any of the shows this week.
“Hopefully, other people decide to pick up the torch and run with it,” Bearman said.
“It’s kind of a whole new future starting up, a whole new outlook on things,” he added. “Hopefully, we can get some new members and get things rolling and put on shows for years to come. That’s my hope.”
Willis Jacobson covers the city of Lompoc for Lee Central Coast Newspapers. Follow him on Twitter @WJacobsonLR.