The spectators can (and should) be an important ingredient in any cat show.
From a financial standpoint, people paying to attend the cat show contribute to the health and future of the show producing cat club ... so it is in the interest of the club's bottom line to treat visitors to the show as well as possible, so that they will come again next year.
In addition, the visitors to the cat show represent potential growth of the cat fancy. It is from this pool of people that new blood may enter the cat fancy in the form of future breeders and exhibitors.
Perhaps more importantly, as we face new restrictive legislation against cat breeding, it is the people who enjoy attending the cat show that are more likely to stand up for the cat breeders' rights to enjoy our hobby.
And the person who wants to see the cats at a cat show is also more likely to eventually purchase a pedigreed kitten at some point in their life.
Clearly, it is in our best interest to please the spectators.... So, what can we do to enhance the spectator's experience at the cat show? What things can we do to make it more interesting? More fun?
The club can increase their gate by including in their advertising
the details of any special activities for visitors
Special Activities For Spectators
If a club wants to attract and please more visitors to the cat show, it means considering adding activities to the cat show that will specifically appeal to those potential spectators:
- Raffle: Conduct a raffle and give each spectator a free raffle ticket with each paid entrance.
- Agility Ring: Perhaps the most exciting and fast-moving part of a cat show from a spectator standpoint is the agility ring ... so include agility as part of the show. Be sure to situate the course so that spectators have a good view of the action.
- Best Decorated Cage: Include prizes for the best decorated cage for each day of the show and allow the spectators to vote for their favorite. Announce the winners in the early afternoon so the spectators know the results.
- Spectators' Favorite Cat : Have a Spectators' Favorite Cat contest with prizes for the Favorite. A simple ballot box with spectators choosing cats by their entry number is all that is needed. Hand out ballots with admission.
- Cat Costume Contest: Have a cat costume contest at 1PM ... and choose the winners by spectator's applause. All rings should stop during the contest. Ideally, hold the contest on a raised stage so the audience can easily see the costumed kitties.
- Parade of Breeds: Spectators love to see unusual cats, so include a Parade of Breeds to help visitors learn about the various breeds.
- "Touch The Cat" Booth: Include a "Touch The Cat" booth where spectators, especially kids, can pet a cat. Let then touch the ear of a Curl or a Scottish Fold, the rump of a Manx or a Bobtail, the coat of a Persian or the body of a Sphynx. These are experiences that can make a real impact.
- Cat Ambassadors: Encourage and organize ambassadors at the show who wear " ASK ME" buttons. Include signage explaining about the ambassadors and encouraging spectators to ask questions.
- Tours: Conduct tours around the show hall led by Ambassadors.
- Posters: Display large posters that explain the judging & awards. Make them reusable so they are a one-time expense.
- Hand-outs: Provide Spectator-handouts that explains the workings of a cat show.
- Power Point Presentation: Set up a computer with a power point presentation about how to enjoy a cat show and put it on a loop. Set it up in a corner of the showhall with chairs for seating.
- Educational Demonstrations:
- Conduct a grooming demonstration periodically.
- Conduct a nail trimming demonstration.
- Conduct a tooth brushing demonstration.
- Fresh-popped Popcorn: Offer popcorn - the smell is irrsistable!
- Bingo At Noon: During the lunch hour, have a bingo game for spectators and exhibitors..
For The Kids
- Half-Price For Kids: Allow kids to come to the show for half-price if accompanied by an adult.
- Kids-only Raffle: Conduct a kids-only raffle and give each child a free raffle ticket with each paid entrance. Approach local kids and toys stores for donations. Of course, include stuffed toy cats and cat books :-).
- Find The Different Breeds Game: Conduct a kids-only-game of Find The Different Breeds ... Makeup a form to be checked off then a tub for the completed forms to be drawn from.
- Rosettes: Encourage exhibitors to give their rosettes to children. Allow the exhibitor to bring rosettes from previous shows just for that purpose!
Judging, Judges & Exhibitors
Judges and exhibitors can be encouraged to help make the show a success for spectators:
- Seating: Have lots of spectator seating at each ring and arrange it to maximize the view. This can be as simple as off-setting every second row of chairs.
- Raised Judging Tables: Simple PVC leg extensions can be used to raise the judging cages/table 6 inches will provide a better view for spectators.
- Judging: Encourage the judges to talk about each breed and each cat as they are judging.
- Microphones: Provide microphones so that the judges can be heard.
- Cat Play: Encourage the judges to play with the cats to create a "performance" for the spectators.
- Cat Show-Offs: Enlist several exhibitors willing to act as "cat show-offs" in exchange for free end-of-row preferred benching. Organize the benching so all the exhibitors willing to participate are benched in the same area so spectators can simply stroll along the row to enjoy this interaction. If there is space, make this area opposite to the judging rings to avoid congestion. This will also split the spectators into two different areas of activity, making both experiences more intimate.
- Hand Sanitizer: Encourage exhibitors to have hand sanitizer available so spectators are free to pet and handle their cats.
- Encourage exhibitors to make poster boards telling about their cattery & something about their breed including brags and photos about awards their cats have won.
- Kittens for Sale Cages: Discount: Give a discount for "kittens for sale cages" and encourage sellers to allow everyone to play with the kittens, not just potential buyers.
- Encourage exhibitors to ask spectators about their cat at home ... Visitors love that :-).
Don't forget that spectators may be attracted to vendors products they don't find in the average pet store.
- Vendor Space: Set up the vendors area prominently
- Show Specials: Ask vendors to do at least one show special - then include the special in your show advertising.
Finally - A Suggestion Box
Be creative and try out different ideas that might make the cat show more fun for spectators. Include a suggestion box, paper and pencil for feedback - maybe even a form and check list to rate categories you want info about - What they liked best? Least?
Always be willing to try something new at least once.
Never forget, it is difficult for exhibitors and people in the cat fancy to see their hobby and the cat show through the eyes of a spectator. What you think they might like may not be true at all. Things you don't notice may be something they think is special indeed. Keep an open mind and try out everything....
To attract more spectators, include the special activities in your advertising!