Two Icons • Chicago – International Kennel Club of Chicago
by Mary Marshall & Bo Bengtson
BIS Magazine USA June 2021 issue
Chicago, Illinois, also known as the Windy City, is among the largest and most progressive cities in the U.S. with over 2.81 million inhabitants. Famous for its bold architecture the skyline is punctuated by skyscrapers such as the 1,452-ft tall Willis Tower, the John Hancock Centers, and the neo-Gothic Tribune Tower. Chicago has always been a tourist destination and well known for its world-class museums including the Art Institute of Chicago that holds notable impressionist and post-impressionist works of art. Chicago also boasts eight professional sports teams including the Chicago Bears, Cardinals, Cubs, and the White Sox. Chicago is also home to the prestigious International Kennel Club of Chicago dog show.
Chicago, situated on the shores of freshwater Lake Michigan, became incorporated as city in 1837. The settlement was located near a portage between the Great Lakes and the Mississippi watershed, and grew to a large port city by the mid-19th century. The Chicago Fire of 1871 destroyed several square miles of the city and left over 100,000 inhabitants without homes. The construction boom accelerated population growth, and by 1900, only 29 years after the fire, Chicago became the fifth largest city in the world.is well known as an international hub for culture, commerce, industry, education, technology, telecommunications, and transportation. It is the home of O’Hare International Airport which is ranked among the world’s top six busiest airports based on data from the Airports Council International. Chicago also is home to a wide array of Fortune 500 companies including Allstate, Boeing, Caterpillar, Kraft Heinz, McDonalds, Mondelez International, United Airline Holdings, US Foods, and Walgreens.
Conde Nast Traveler has ranked Chicago as the best large city to visit for four years in a row (pre pandemic). Outstanding landmarks to visit include Millennium Park, Navy Pier, the Magnificent Mile, the Art Institute of Chicago, Museum Campus, Willis (Sears) Tower, Grant Park, Lincoln Park Zoo and the Museum of Science and Industry. The Barack Obama Presidential center was built on the south side of Hyde Park. The Bean (a sculpture officially known as Cloud Gate) is quickly on its way to becoming Chicago’s most recognizable icon. It is located on the east side of downtown, bordered on the west by Michigan Avenue, on the east by Columbus Drive, on the north by Randolph Street, and on the south by Monroe Street.
The diverse culture of “Chi Town” includes a wide array of visual arts, literature, film, theatre, comedy, food, and music with a focus on jazz, blues, soul, hip-hop and gospel. The many colleges in Chicago included the University of Illinois at Chicago, University of Chicago, and Northwestern are considered as high research doctoral universities.
One of the largest dog shows in the United States takes place in Chicago in February—the International Kennel Club of Chicago Dog Show attracts over 200 breeds of dogs to the competition. The show, formerly one of the last remaining benched shows in the country, is one of the highlights of the year and draws over 100,000 spectators, dog lovers, breeders, and handlers from all over the country. Not only does the show feature the prestigious all-breed conformation classes but hosts a Purina Canine Pro Plan Performance Team, dancers, agility demonstration and competition, police K9 Unit demonstration, rally, and obedience. There is something for every dog lover to enjoy or participate in or enjoy including over 100 booth exhibitors offering a wide-array of dog-related products from artwork to dog collars and everything in between.
“Having a benched show is a wonderful way for spectators to find breeds and talk to breeders,” said Lou Auslander, the Club’s former president in an earlier interview prior to his death in 2019. “We view benching as a chance to educate the general public about our wonderful breeds of dogs.”
Auslander eventually became an all-breed judge and judged best in show events throughout the world, including the 1987 BIS at Westminster. He was not only an advocate for new events and pedigreed dogs, but for all dogs, and invited shelters to participate in the dog shows including the IKC.
The Meet the Breed booth which has been held at the show for several years has offered spectators a chance to become introduced to specific breeds, breeders, and handlers throughout the country.
“I had always admired the Brittany Spaniel but had never had my hands on one,” said Margaret Turpin, now a breeder of world-class spaniels. “The Meet the Breed booth at the IKC show was a great introduction that allowed me to connect with a mentor who got me on the right path with my Brittany Spaniels—in the show ring and in the field.”
The show is held for three days at McCormick Place convention center, just minutes away from dog friendly hotels and dining in downtown Chicago. The Park Shore Kennel Club show, held on Thursday, and Blackhawk Kennel Club show on Friday
The IKC is a successor to the old Chicago Kennel Club, which was founded in 1900. It had long been considered as one of the premier shows in America but became a victim in the 1980’s of the other clubs holding shows on the same weekend and falling at the end of major clusters when dogs and people are tired.
Auslander countered this by changing the show’s date from the end of March to the end of February and gradually the weekend began returning as a major highlight of the show circuit. When Auslander and the late Dorothy Donnelly took over the show in 1983. It was moved to McCormick Place, located on the lakefront. Auslander said he wanted the show to become more than a beauty contest.
“Let’s face it,” Auslander said “Watching conformation for hours at a time is like watching paint dry. I want the show to be family friendly, fun to be at.”
Auslander was among the first to invite participants to a new competition at the IKC show called agility and included Frisbee disc demos to the dog show.
In recent years, prior to the pandemic, there have had over 3000 entries at the shows which draws top dogs from across the United States and Canada to compete for many prizes and the coveted Group and Best In Show wins.
The IKC has been promoting purebred dogs with world-class competition for over 50 years. The show was previously held at the International Amphitheatre prior to its closure in 1982 when it was eventually moved to the convention center McCormick Place. Chicago may have hosted the nation’s first dog show in 1874 sponsored by the Illinois Sportsmen’s Association that included a wide array of setters and pointers with names like Nelly, Frank, Bob, and Joe. The names have changed, the location, dogs, and breeders, but one thing that remains the same in the Windy City is a continued love for beautiful dogs and dog shows.