The Morris and Essex Kennel Club


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Elegance, Glamour, Box Lunches, and the World’s Finest Show Dogs:
Morris & Essex Kennel Club Dog Show 2010
By Debra Lampert-Rudman

“To reach a high standard of perfection requires painstaking effort. And once that standard has been established, it becomes increasingly difficult to raise it, periodically, to even higher planes. Yet such a thing has been happening, yearly, with the great Morris and Essex Kennel Club Show.”

Somerset, NJ - The quote above may have been penned by Arthur Frederick Jones in the July 1, 1937 edition of the American Kennel Gazette, but is equally true of the 2010 Morris & Essex Kennel Club show set for Thursday, October 7 at Colonial Park in Somerset, New Jersey.

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. In its 1937 heyday, more than 50,000 dog-loving spectators descended upon sleepy Madison, New Jersey while 4,104 dogs were shown. In its 2005 incarnation, a total entry of 3,619 dogs were presented in 160 different breeds or varieties with Ch. Rocky Tops Sundance Kid “Rufus” garnering Best in Show honors. This year, more than 3,090 entries of the world’s finest show dogs will be competing for the lofty title of Best in Show.

Proceeds of the show will benefit the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine, Cornell College of Veterinary Medicine, the American Kennel Club Canine Health Foundation, Take the Lead, and St Hubert’s Giralda (the animal shelter that Mrs. Dodge herself founded).

“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 1927 naming 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, Cherrybrook founder and 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.

A classic car display featuring stunning representatives from the 1930’s along with a dazzling array of Club and Show treasures and historical archives round off this one-of-a-kind dog show experience.

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.