Saturday, April 16, 2016

West Coast Classic Rabbit Show Reno April 8-10, 2016

Wow! That was fun! Excuse the simplistic language and use of an exclamation to begin this blog, but that little, three letter “Wow!” best captures my reaction to the West Coast Classic rabbit show in Reno. We pulled our red Radio Flyer wagon, topped with rabbit cages and supplies, into the Reno Convention Center and immediately realized this was not the average San Joaquin Valley rabbit show. Rabbit cages, rabbits, people, lots of people, and vendors filled the convention hall from wall-to-wall. This was a temporary city devoted entirely to rabbits. I quickly wondered if we were all crazy to devote so much energy and resources to these furry critters. Why rabbits? I can only imagine the amount of money this convention generated, all in the name of rabbits.

But back to the main point: fun. Pure rabbit fun everywhere I looked: long eared English lops, giant French lops, fuzzy Angoras, little Lionheads, Flemish Giants, Checkered Giants, Dutch, Polish, and more. What were we all doing here in America’s “Biggest Little City in the World?” But before I could answer that question, “New Zealand blacks and brokens” were called to show table 27. From that announcement on, the show became a blur. Our judging table was in the front of the hall and our staging area and cages, neatly outlined by blue tape, were in the back. With rabbits under arms we began the rabbit shuffle: first broken junior bucks, next broken junior does, put those back and get junior red bucks. My daughter Micaela and I navigated the isles like running backs eluding NFL linebackers. Left, right, blocked by people watching judging, back around the other way. People sitting outside the blue lines, hurry back down the next isle. The Friday night show started right on time and finished on time. We were determined we would be ready for Saturday morning’s specialty.

With the Friday night specialty under our belt, we strolled in early Saturday morning confident and ready to go. Wait, 5 million English lops in both Open and Youth at show table 27, we will be here until midnight. I told my wife and daughter that we would have some down time before New Zealands would be called. My wife, who had been quietly observing this rabbit madness, said we looked like rookies: cages on the floor, supplies everywhere, and our chairs were even sticking out beyond the blue tape.  “I do not like this,” she said. So off shopping we went; the man from BunnyWood came to the rescue. With pine slats and slabs piled onto his cart, he followed us to our messy abode. With slight of hand and encouraging words, he set up our now professional looking show stand and grooming table. Amazing, now our chairs fit inside the blue tape! We were now professionals! Micaela, my daughter, came to life and started rubbing her hands and rubbing the rabbits’ coats back and forth. A little water spray here and there and our “fair” condition soon became “good” condition. When asked why she had never done this before at a rabbit show, she simply stated we didn’t have a “cool grooming table before.”

Finally, after lunch, I heard the announcement: “New Zealand blacks and brokens to show table 27.” The rabbit shuffle began once again. This time our judge was the ARBA president Josh Humphries. How cool was that? The ARBA president was judging our little juniors, and he breeds New Zealands too. Wait, what is this: “MH something, best junior red buck; MH something best junior broken buck; MH something best junior broken doe.” Those words were sweet. Our breeding program was heading in the right direction. Now we just have to take care of that “something” and improve our tattooing ability, or scrap the clamp and go with the pen.

I soon noticed something was changing, the adrenaline rush had left. The legs were not dodging and shuffling, they were just plain moving slowly. Open Show A was still to come. I told my wife that if she was tired of waiting, we could skip the Open show and go out and explore Reno. She asked if we had paid to enter Open Show A; I was doomed.  After 5,000 Cinnamons, which I didn’t even know was a rabbit breed, New Zealands were called to table 25. There we met a kindly, grandfather figure named Allen Ormand. This judge was very tall and friendly. He surprised my daughter when he engaged her in small talk about being a kid and showing rabbits. He didn’t have to do that, but I could tell he enjoyed talking with the breeders. He was a very nice man. I latter learned he was the retired fire captain for all of Salt Lake City, a true hero.

After a little contemplation, I realized why the West Coast Classic rabbit show had that “Wow!” factor. Lots of talented people worked very hard to put on this really neat rabbit show. In the end, I believe it was more than a rabbit show; it was an entire rabbit city or community. A group of diverse people from all areas of the United States came together in Reno to share a common bond with others: rabbits. Many of my students ask me, “why rabbits?” I honestly don’t know: I have memories of Pete and simpler times; I like rocking in my chair while I pet a rabbit; I just like the way they look; perhaps they symbolize simplicity and purity. I really do not know, but I know the ARBA convention will be in Del Mar next year and we already have our reservations.