Westminster veterans head to York's Celtic Classic Dog Show

Neal Henderson, of Dover Township, poses with English springer spaniel Carson. Co-owned by Henderson and Deb Kirk, of York City, Carson will be competing in the 2018 Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show at 1 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 13.

More than 8,000 dogs of almost 200 different breeds will fill the York Expo Center Wednesday through Sunday, March 14-18, for the Celtic Classic — the largest regional dog show on the East Coast.

"I rented my U-Haul this morning," said Deb Kirk, whose York City-based Susquehanna Valley English Springer Spaniel Club is the largest regional club for the breed in the country.

Kirk, an American Kennel Club presenter, will be representing her club at the Classic along with her own dog, Carson, fresh off a stint at the Westminster Kennel Club dog show last month.

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"This is his year," she said of Carson, a 2-year-old English springer spaniel. He was "new to the world" at the WKC show, and now he's competing to become a grand champion — which is accomplished by competing against other AKC champions.

Robin Lord's bearded collie, Captain, also is returning to the Classic after his second trip to the WKC dog show.

Robin Lord, of North Hopewell Township, co-owns bearded collie, Captain, with breeder Leslie Papa. Captain will be attending his second Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show in 2018.

Lord, of North Hopewell Township, said Captain has been competing in the Classic for the past five or six years and won show points throughout his runs.

"We have most of the top dogs in the country here," said Jeffrey Moore, vice president of the York Kennel Club and Celtic Classic show chair.

Three area kennel clubs — The York Kennel Club, the Lancaster Kennel Club and the Delaware Valley Kennel Club — come together each year to host five dog shows within the Classic.

It will be the 51st year for the event and its 25th at the fairgrounds, Moore said.

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Kirk said the show started at the fairgrounds as a one-day show until the AKC suggested the clubs host together so all five shows would be in one place. 

The York Kennel Club hosts the shows on Wednesday and Friday, with Lancaster on Thursday and Delaware County on Saturday and Sunday, she said.

Every day a new show: But the dogs compete in every show, with different judges each day. 

"Every day is like a new start to the day before," Moore said, so spectators can see the full range of competition events, from individuals to Best in Show, no matter which day they come.

Judging starts at 8:30 a.m., Moore explained, with Best in Show usually about 6:30 p.m. After breeds are judged individually, Best of Breed dogs compete in one of seven groups, and each of those winners compete for Best in Show.

"This is a big draw for people," Moore said. Winning at the Classic will be a big step for competitors in qualifying for the AKC National Championship, held Dec. 15-16 in Orlando, Florida.

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There have been skill competitions the the Classic, such as hunting, but "the show's gotten so big that we just don't have room to do it all anymore," Moore said.

Other competitive events include Best Puppy, Best Owner-Handled, Veterans (any dog over the age of 7), Junior Showmanship and specialty competitions for each breed.

According to Moore, the specialty events can have hundreds of dogs for each breed. More than 250 dogs, with breeders from Maine, Illinois, Kentucky and Florida, are coming for the English springer competition, Kirk said.

The 2016 Celtic Classic Dog Show at the York Fairgrounds in York City, Wednesday, March 16, 2016. Dawn J. Sagert photo

Seminars: The Classic also will have exhibitors from the community who talk about how the show works and teach about particular breeds.

Kirk has a seminar for aspiring judges, which educates them on breed standards for the English springer spaniel and what to look for in the ring. Attending one of these seminars is one of the necessary requirements from the AKC to become an official judge.

The Celtic Classic: "You can’t replace Madison Square Garden," Kirk said, in how the show compares with the magnitude of the WKC show, held at the Garden in New York City.

Coming off of the Westminster show, however, everyone who saw it on TV can get in the car with their kids and get to experience a dog show firsthand, she said.

"It's the opposite of a show like Westminster," Lord said, but she praised the fairgrounds for being such a cool place with an old-time feel.

The biggest draw for the community, Moore said, is in learning about particular breeds. He said some are breeders interested in showing their dogs, while many attendees are just looking for a family pet. Kids and families can learn about a breed's temperament and see dogs of all ages, so it's a great resource, he said.

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"A lot of show people now were spectators at some point," Moore said.

Lord agreed that she loves going to the Classic because the specialty shows are a great opportunity to see many dogs from the same breed.

Moore also recognized the event as a strong source of revenue for York County — bringing in a about $1 million worth of hotel and restaurant money. People come from all over the country, he said.

If You Go:

What: The Celtic Classic

When: 8 a.m. - 6 p.m. (doors open at 7 a.m.) Wednesday through Sunday, March 14-18

Where: The York Expo Center, Old Main, Memorial Hall, Horticultural Hall and surrounding grounds, 334 Carlisle Ave.

Cost: Free admission and parking

More information: Concessions available; cookie and ice cream social Friday and Saturday about 4 p.m., respectively; noncompeting dogs not permitted on show grounds