There will be nearly 6,000 dogs and 100 breeds at the four-day event.
By LAURE CIOFFI
VINDICATOR NEW CASTLE BUREAU
NEW CASTLE, Pa. -- For Mike Heasley, breeding dogs is something of an art form.
"I have a living canvas instead of a canvas or a stone to work with. I try to get the dog in its best shape and condition to make it a work of art," said Heasley of New Galilee, Pa.
His latest piece of art is Lizzie, an Irish setter who'll make her debut in the Memorial Weekend Classic dog show at the Lawrence County Farm Show Grounds, about five miles east of New Castle on Pa. Route 108.
The four-day event has nearly 6,000 dogs and more than 100 breeds signed up for confirmation and obedience competition to take place each day.
Different clubs sponsor each day of competition.
The May 28 show has the fewest entries with 1,308, and next Sunday has the most dogs entered with 1,665.
There will also be dog agility competition each day.
Growing steadily: The entries and attendance have grown steadily over the last seven years, said Lee Wolf, president of the New Castle Kennel Club.
"We are getting larger every year. We don't want it to get too large. We want it to stay a nice laid-back show. When it gets too big, there's too much pressure," he said.
Wolf, who is also a certified judge for several dog breeds, trains each week with people in the area who are interested in showing dogs for competition.
They meet each Thursday at the Farm Show grounds to practice running through a show ring and get used to the poking and prodding of judges.
"We do this instead of vacations. I've always enjoyed animals. I enjoy the people, too," said StaciPearson of Freedom, Pa. She has two Brittany spaniels competing next weekend. Pearson also breeds and shows English bulldogs and Briards.
Big weekend: Wolf said the Memorial Weekend Classic is attracting dog owners from as far away as Canada and California. Many stay for the entire weekend, but others move on after a day or two to other dog shows.
"This is the biggest dog show weekend of the year that the AKC has. There are more dog shows around the county on Memorial Day weekend than any other," he said.
The American Kennel Club estimates a four-day show the size of the one planned in Lawrence County brings in an estimated $5 million in revenue to an area from people spending money on hotel, food and other amenities.
Wolf said the farm show grounds will be filled with recreational vehicles and tents filled with people and dogs.
Variety of experience: "It can be a humbling experience. Somebody could have a handler in there that makes $300,000 and there could be someone who takes a dog in by themselves and comes out with best of breed. They are supposed to judge the dog, not the person," he said.
After the daily competition, there will be competitions for specific breeds, called specialties.
For Heasley, it's a good weekend to bring Lizzie to her first show because the Golden Triangle Irish Setter Club of Pittsburgh is sponsoring a specialty Friday night. There will be 79 Irish setters competing.
"Lizzie has an outside chance [of winning]. She needs a little bit of work, but I want to show her off a bit," he said.