Interview with Gloria McClay, chairperson of The Great Barrington Kennel Club
1. What is the name of your show/cluster?
Gloria McClay: Our club is Great Barrington Kennel Club and we have held back-to back shows.
2. Where are your shows held? When?
Gloria McClay: Our shows are held at Eastern States Exposition, W. Springfield, Massachusetts. We just held this year’s shows on Saturday, February 5 & 6, 2022.
3. Can you please provide a brief history of your club?
Gloria McClay: Our club was incorporated in 1941 and, years ago, our shows were considered prestigious and were originally held at Butternut Basin. After that, we held shows outside at the Great Barrington Fairgrounds. When the grounds were damaged, we decided to have two separate shows a year in conjunction with other kennel clubs that are held at indoor venues. About 10-15 years ago, the club decided to hold back-to-back shows at Eastern States Exposition. Doing the back-to-back shows has been the best decision our club made!
4. How are the following accommodated at your show/cluster: Parking; Grooming; Bathing; Hospitality; Vendors; Public Education?
Gloria McClay: Our show site, Eastern States Exposition, has a huge area for both exhibitor parking and RV accommodations. Our shows are held in the Better Living Building, which is an indoor site of approximately five acres. There is a tremendous amount of room for grooming set-ups, vendors, and exhibitors. We have a variety of pamphlets at our club table, which includes both AKC and our club’s information. Our members are also more than willing to answer questions when spectators come to our club table. We only have about 5-6 club members who work at our shows, but they are awesome and our club table of awards/prizes looks beautiful. Our members are also on top of ring hospitality and can answer most questions from exhibitors or spectators.
5. Does your show/cluster offer the National Owner-Handled Series? Junior Showmanship? 4-6 Month Beginner Puppy? Best Bred-By? Specialties? Supported Entries?
Gloria McClay: Great Barrington KC offers NOHS, Junior Showmanship Classes, 4-6 Month Beginner Puppy Classes, and we have had three supported entries at our shows.
6. How are judging panels determined? Who stewards at your show(s)/cluster?
Gloria McClay: We have a Judges Selection Committee of Ellen Shanahan (Assistant Chair), Nioma Coen (Vice President) and myself. The three of us have been in the show world for mega years and know most of the judges, pros and cons. This always makes me feel comfortable with the judges we hire. We hire The Stewards Club of America, which covers stewarding for all of our rings.
7. Are Breed Seminars and Judges Education offered?
Gloria McClay: We don’t offer breed seminars or judges education.
8. How are your show(s)/cluster promoted? TV? Radio? Print Media? Social Media?
Gloria McClay: We mainly promote our shows through social media and local news media. Plus, Eastern States Expo also promotes our shows through their website.
9. What are some of the challenges that you’ve had to face as show/cluster chair?
Gloria McClay: Well, the past two years have been quite challenging as a Show Chair. Last year (2021), we were one of a handful of clubs that decided to hold our shows during COVID-19. I ended up replacing most of the panels of judges—and it was right up to the day before our shows. At that time, no one had been vaccinated, and judges were either afraid to come and judge or they ended up with COVID. I remember hiring a replacement judge and he ended up with COVID a few days before our show. I also had to replace a couple other replacement judges.
Our shows occasionally need to have bench show committees, but it seemed we were overloaded with issues in 2021. Thank goodness, Pattie Proctor was our AKC Rep and she held my hand through the process! Plus, the fact that we were under a number of restrictions from the W. Springfield Health Dept and Eastern States Exposition due to COVID-19, everyone had to wear masks, stay six feet apart from each other, had to sign COVID-19 waiver forms, and it was a Show N’ Go and no spectators were allowed. Exhibitors could only groom their dogs 15 minutes prior to judging and couldn’t use blow dryers. This year, mother nature decided to bring in a horrific storm that covered most of the nation. Four of our judges’ flights had been cancelled, and again, the day before our shows, we had to hire judges at the 11th hour. The challenge with both our 2021 & 2022 shows was to bring in judges without having a great number of exhibitors pull their entries due to judge changes. And I can’t tell you how appreciative I was to have the help of our AKC Rep, Clifford Steele, and our Superintendent, MB-F, Kuno Spies, who came in to help me and Ellen Shanahan find replacement judges. And, I would like to name a woman who has helped me tremendously. She also helps all the other Clubs that hold their shows @ the Eastern States Exposition in MA do their set-ups for grooming, etc etc. Can’t tell you the assistance she gave me for our February 2021 shows to obtain judges when one by one cancelled due to COVID-19. She was up many nights on the phone w/me finding judges. Her name is Penny Kretchmer & she is also a Show Chair for Albany Kennel Club (Albany, NY). Her shows are also held @ Eastern States.
10. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, what have you and your club members learned about putting on a dog show? What, if any, are the differences from previous years and how are you planning for the future?
Gloria McClay: We have learned through COVID-19 to keep calm and put one foot in front of the other, and just get it done. And we are so grateful to the people I’ve mentioned above for all of their help. (A Show Chair can’t do it all alone!) I can tell you that it isn’t easy, but we were able to have successful shows in 2021 & 2022! And despite what we went through over the past two years, it is so nice to see exhibitors having a great time!
We have learned through COVID-19 to keep calm and put one foot in front of the other, and just get it done.
About Gloria McClay
Gloria McClay started her life in the dog showing world when she was in her early twenties. She first competed at obedience trials with a Schipperke and a Keeshond. Gloria was encouraged to join Great Barrington Kennel Club in 1981. At that time, most members were breeders and AKC judges. Hearing all of their brags about their conformation show wins, Gloria decided to purchase “Teena,” her first show prospect Schipperke. Teena not only had beauty, but also brains and she obtained titles on both ends of her registered name; AKC Championship, CD in Obedience, Therapy Dog, and Canine Good Citizen. Teena was Gloria’s start toward becoming a breeder/owner-handler in the conformation ring, and she bred Schips for 25-30 years and produced eight champions. She only bred when she needed a show dog.
In 1996, Gloria McClay started a dog training/grooming business with her second husband, Mike. When the pair first met, Mike had a Rottweiler named “Fritz” and just loved the breed. The couple purchased their first Rottie show bitch, “Yetta,” who became pointed toward her AKC Championship and held the titles of CD, Therapy Dog, Canine Good Citizen, and TT. Yetta and Gloria visited many middle schools together and educated the children about dogs and the importance of training. The kids just loved Yetta!
Gloria McClay owned and operated her business for 23 years, and retired last year. She and Mike have lived with numerous Schipperkes and five Rottweilers throughout their 27 years of marriage. They now have a Pit Bull mix, “Schuyler,” who was on death row at a shelter (they adopted him 12 years ago), and they have a 14-month-old Rottweiler named “Dain.” Gloria hopes that Dain becomes an AKC Champion and will maybe have a Rally title or two, plus, she might even do carting with him! Regarding her tenure as a Great Barrington Kennel Club (GBKC) member, Gloria has held the positions of President, Vice President, Secretary, and is currently the Treasurer and Show Chairman of the club’s shows.