Monday, October 25, 2010

Elegance is Learned, My Friends

Elegance and Glamour are certainly not words that come to mind when I think of dog shows. A friend half-kiddingly describes them as one step above NASCAR. One step above? Really? Now don't get me wrong. I don't have a thing against NASCAR. I'm just more into professional wrestling. Most of you probably don't know, but many dog show people are also professional wrestlers. I must say that
I do sometimes long for the dog show days when you were more likely to run into the likes of the future Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and her sister, the future Princess Lee Radziwell (now 77 and single after three marriages, the first was annulled after the bride and groom had been together for six years), than Mama's family. That is why I was so excited to learn of the Morris and Essex Kennel Club.

Elegance is learned, my friends
Elegance is learned, oh yeah
-Countess Luann de Lesseps

According to the Morris and Essex Kennel Club, every five years, starting in the year 2000, the elegance, glamour, style and high level of judging quality of Geraldine Rockefeller Dodge’s original dog show held on her polo fields is brought back to life for a new generation. Of course, dad didn't learn about this year's M&E show until it was already over. Who knows where I will be in five years! Just now dad came across an article about the show that featured Gerald Gross and Stacey LaForge and their Tibetan Terrier Triumph and her pup Cordelia. Looking very spiffy. We know these Tibetan Terriers and they are gorgeous!

Above: Gerald Gross watches 18-month-old Cordy (short for Cordelia) get ready to compete at the Morris & Essex Dog Show in Somerset.

Above: Stacey LaForge, wife of Gerald Gross, with their Tibetan terrier Cordy.

Keep Reading if you want to learn more about Ms. Rockefeller Dodge and her legacy.

“The Dog Fancier of the Century”

Geraldine Rockefeller Dodge, daughter of William Rockefeller and niece of John D. Rockefeller, Sr. was born into a privileged life during America’s “Gilded Age” . Geraldine grew up with a strong love of dogs, art, and a spirit of philanthropy. On April 18, 1907, Geraldine married Marcellus Hartley Dodge and the couple were regarded as the richest young couple in America.

Geraldine’s interest in dog breeding led her to create Giralda Farms Kennels in Madison, New Jersey; known both nationally and internationally as the home of the finest German Shepherds, Pointers, and English Cocker Spaniels. In fact, Mrs. Dodge is credited as the architect of the separation of the breeds now known as the American and English cocker spaniels. Between 1937 and 1942, the English cocker spaniel became her most successful breed. And, in 1942 she published a book entitled The English Cocker Spaniel in America.

Giralda Farms covered almost four acres and housed up to 150 dogs in palatial facilities with several resident kennel men. More than 200 Giralda Farms dogs were Best in Show winners leading Mrs. Dodge to be known as the “first lady of dogdom” and “the dog fancier of the century”. According to the Westminster Kennel Club website, in 1933, Mrs. M. Hartley Dodge became the first woman to officiate as the sole judge for Best In Show at its illustrious dog show.
Mrs. Dodge founded the M&E Kennel Club in 1927naming it after the two New Jersey counties from which its committed organizers and kennel club members came: Morris and Essex counties, just outside of New York City. Her grand outdoor dog shows held on her estate were highlights of not only the dog show world but the New York social world from 1927 until 1957. Women and men were dressed to the “nines” and it was the place to be seen.

The M&E Revival

In 1996, Wayne Ferguson, a well-known dog world philanthropist, discovered the M&E Kennel Club archives while attending a Board meeting at St Hubert’s Giralda. Mr. Ferguson was so enchanted by the magic of the 30-year reign of Mrs. Dodge’s show that he gathered a group of the 21st Century’s “who’s who” in dogs to revive the elegance of the bygone era. Four years later, the first M&E show was held near the grounds of the original show.

Thanks largely to M&E Club President and Show Committee Chairman Wayne Ferguson’s endeavors, and those of a remarkable and highly skilled Show Committee, including Connie Butherus, David Helming, and many others; every five years Geraldine Rockefeller Dodge’s legendary dog show once again springs to life.

In the years between shows, elaborate plans are made, show site drawings are debated, and grass is painstakingly treated and tended to assure perfection on show day. On the 2010 dog show scene, M&E is the place to be seen with more than a few stylish hats on both men and women in and outside the rings at Colonial Park in Somerset, NJ.
The 2010 M&E outdoor show features huge Renaissance tents flying the club’s orange and navy blue banners and housing 28 rings with 67 of the American Kennel Club’s finest breed judges and 36 Sweepstakes Judges; 16 breed clubs will hold Specialties and 74 breed clubs will host Supported Entries. This year, 160 breeds with entries expected from around the world will be seen on the beautiful grounds of Colonial Park and, keeping with tradition, only conformation judging will be held.

Hospitality and gentility are two of many features separating M&E from other outdoor shows. Picture elaborate flower displays, raised specially-designed platforms for Group winners, and imagine an outdoor dog show with no generators and noise, except the chirping of birds and the voice of the announcer. The M&E Committee accords tens of thousands of dollars for specially designed underground wiring to accommodate blow dryers, fans, grooming and other equipment to eliminate noise and excessive heat.

At precisely noon, a lunch bell is rung, all judging stops. Exhibitors are each presented with a scrumptious and beautifully designed “box lunch”, included as part of the $39 entry fee. During lunch hour, everyone dines; while in the judge’s tent, live classical music is played; linen and fine china displayed.

All spectators are invited to purchase delicious food and other items from an array of caterers and upscale vendors. Limited edition collectible commemorative pins and exciting memorabilia may be purchased in the catalog tent. Various charitable organizations, including Take the Lead – host of an Exhibitor Breakfast in the morning and fundraising Silent Auction throughout the day, the American Kennel Club, and St. Hubert’s, among others will be housed in a special tented area.
For the first time in its history, the 2010 M&E KC Show features an Art Show juried by William Secord of the world-renowned William Secord Gallery, NYC. Winners displayed will depict dog art from each of the 7 dog show groups and each receives a rosette. “Best in Show” at the Art Show will be selected at 10:30 that day by Mr. Secord and receive not only a rosette, but, exhibition during Westminster Week in a place of honor at the William Secord Gallery.

The level of detail and planning that go into this show are spectacular. The sterling silver trophy display is like none seen at any other outdoor dog show and includes many very special historical pieces. In fact, the 2010 Premium List was 200 type-written pages to include the array of trophies, prizes, and programs.

Every five years, a very special dog show appears, and we are transported to a gentler time honoring the heritage of one of the dog show world’s most devoted benefactors and the Show’s founder, Mrs. Geraldine Rockefeller Dodge.