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Our Juniors, Our Future
by Janice M. Spence, Mountain Valley Cluster Juniors Events Coordinator

The James River Kennel Club in conjunction with Roanoke and New River Valley Kennel Clubs host the Mountain Valley Cluster each year for five days the first week of August - during students’ summer break. What better opportunity to host a myriad of events to support, honor and offer help to the junior handlers...our future in the sport of dogs.

This year there was a special event planned each day for the juniors. Events included: rosettes for every class placement awarded on Wednesday; an ice cream social featuring Sydney Good, AKC rep, as a speaker on Thursday; a scavenger hunt on Friday, and backpacks were given to every junior entered on Saturday. The scavenger hunt was significant in that it encouraged teamwork, thinking outside the box and good sportsmanship. By pairing an older junior with several younger juniors they made new friends and the older student could monitor the team’s safety during the event.

To wind up the week, photos shot during the first two days of Junior Showmanship competition were taken to the local Wal-Mart who very graciously offered to develop all of the junior’s action shots free of charge. Several shots were then selected to be placed on each of four cakes for the juniors to enjoy on Sunday during the last day of the show. All the prints were made available to the juniors during Sunday’s celebration.

This 5-day cluster of junior activities took very little to accomplish – just some pre-planning and the monetary support of the cluster. With the help of several James River club members, a junior mother, several junior volunteers and a close friend the events came off without a hitch. The juniors thoroughly enjoyed the week’s activities. Parents, club members and exhibitors even enjoyed hiding scavenger hunt items and helping the students during the hunt.

Our entry went from 30 juniors in 2005 to 50 juniors this year. We expect even more entries next year based on the numerous E-mails, accolades and thank-yous we received from very gracious parents and junior showmen. There are already plans in the making to get the Professional Handlers Association involved and offer an opportunity to have mini hands-on handling seminars next year. We look forward to 2007 and the opportunity to once again work with and encourage our juniors...our future in the sport of dogs.