CFA's International Cat Show again regaled Houston's massive and efficient George R. Brown Convention Center with myriad vendors, entertainingly informative presentations, throngs of awed spectators and over 750 gorgeous cats! It's exciting to attend CFA's "Show of Shows" no matter where it's held, but even more so when it comes to one's home town. Newspaper ads, highway billboards and seeing CFA's president on the early morning news locally heralded the great event. The weeks leading up to the great days found me entreating co-workers, neighbors, friends, family and strangers to make this the one cat show they didn't miss.
My arms laden with supplies and mewing carriers shaking under a dripping umbrella, I arrived half-past dawn on the first of this 3-day event. This allowed me extra time to check in, locate my bench, pop up my SturdiCage and pop in my cats. Beside my numbers on the table was a big bag of ProCare products atop a case of canned Iams cat food. Other gifts included folded cardboard litter boxes and Hartz fuzzy-tailed ball toys. A coupon was exchanged for a nifty Royal Canin cat carrier, and a large kibble dispenser filled with Eukanuba dry cat food cost only ten minutes' attendance at the product presentation. I hadn't yet visited the vendors and already my arms were filled with take-home freebies - whatta welcome!
My breed's council members had honored me with the duty of setting up the breed booth, which had arrived only the night before. This treasured cumulative work was delivered in so large, heavy and well-secured a box, I was tempted to take it as-is to the show hall. Thank goodness I opted to practice the set up at home, else I'd still be at the show hall picking up a zillion foam chips! Thank goodness, also, for Jan Chambers, a co-exhibitor whose omni-helpfulness and extra hands spared me much struggle and saved me enough time to attend an important CFA Ambassador meeting. My tardiness cost me a much-anticipated introduction of key CFA persons I'd waited a long time to meet. Fortunately I found many of them in various places throughout the show hall and enjoyed sharing a few personal minutes.
The International Show was arranged my favorite way, with exhibitors grouped by breed under breed banners suspended above in alphabetical order. I valued the opportunity to see other cats of my breed and the time spent with exhibitors who otherwise touch my life only via email. Twelve judging rings were clustered in the center of the show hall and framed on three sides by the benching cages. Cats were carried into the judging area through curtained corridors and placed from the back of the judging cage.
As soon as I was seated before the first ring my cats were called to, I realized I'd placed them according to the color of the cards facing me in back of the cages. In a blushing rush I returned behind the judge and switched my cats before she had the chance to take them out. Imagine the look on that judge's face had she felt for "wholeness" on my female!
In a quiet corner near the entrance was the Breed Showcase, a show within a show. It was set up like a large judging ring with longer rows of cages, longer columns of chairs, one representative cat from many different breeds and two judges who didn't judge. Instead, they presented the various cats to spectators and invited questions about specific breeds. For two days these wonderfully engaging presenters repeated themselves hour after hour, yet always came across fresh and smiling.
Because it spanned three days and had been very well organized, the International Cat Show unfolded at a leisurely pace. This afforded exhibitors the extra time needed to comb through the many rows of unique and fabulous vendor offerings. From one-of-a-kind jewelry, garments and paintings to multi-textured/colored/shaped cat beds, mats and hammocks to designer feeding dishes, grooming products, show and travel equipment, decorative and gift items, plush animals, cat furniture, playful plumes and every stick toy imaginable, many exhibitors got a high jump start on their Christmas shopping. One friend bought an adorable silver cat carrier modeled after a Hummer!
While there wasn't four-star restaurant fare, most every hungry person could find something acceptable from the various concession stands offering burgers, hot dogs, chicken platters, pizza, nachos, muffins, sodas, salads and Blue Bell ice cream.
On the last day of the show, CFA's youngest exhibitors had their moment in the spotlight during the Junior Showmanship event. Each bravely presented his or her own cat to a riveted audience and described how its particular characteristics met its breed standard. Watching them with pride, I visualized CFA's torch being handed down to very capable hands.
Despite the inevitable Stetsons and cowboy boots sported everywhere in Texas and the casual-comfy attire of most everyone, there was an unmistakable aura of glamour about the International Show. Perhaps it was the prestigious location, or the high-tech sound system, or the presence of the media, or the long-flowing rosettes, or constant pop of camera flash, or black-tie attire presenters wore during the grand finale, or all of these together ... but I think the cats themselves cast the twinkling starlight over this show of shows - the CFA International.