WILDWOOD — At the height of this week’s Boardwalk Kennel Club All Breed Dog Show, Yorkshire terriers, Rhodesian ridgebacks and 146 other breeds will make their way through the Wildwoods Convention Center.
They will be accompanied by their breeders, owners and handlers — sometimes all mixed into one — and spend the next five days competing.
But the awards and accolades are only part of the show, said Carlotta Dennie, chairwoman of Wednesday’s event put on by the Union County Kennel Club.
“The purpose is not just to show a dog, but to educate the public,” Dennie said.
Dennie, of Staten Island, N.Y., said the show offered visitors a chance to see dozens of breeds in one place and to ask questions of the people who breed, own and show each type of dog.
“The hope is they leave with a sense this was fun and I learned something,” Dennie said.
The show, which runs through Sunday, had an estimated attendance of 1,200 last year, said John Siciliano, executive director of the Greater Wildwoods Tourism Improvement and Development Authority.
Siciliano said they contribute an estimated $250,000 to the economy, with participants and spectators filling hotels and restaurants at a time of year that is otherwise quiet.
Wally Lerro, owner of the Bolero Resort in Wildwood, said that by the weekend 60 rooms at his Atlantic Avenue hotel will be full.
“If it weren’t for the dog show, there would be nobody here,” he said.
Inside the Wildwoods Convention Center on Wednesday, the exhibit hall was divided into what Dennie likened to a football locker room — the place where the dogs can be groomed and rest — and the show rings, akin to a football stadium hosting the big game.
“Some people do it for the relaxation,” Dennie said of the interest in attending and competing in the shows. “Some of us do it for the competition. Some of us do it to escape the everyday things that drive you crazy.”
Professional dog handler Ron Williams, of Wildwood, said he has been a handler for 36 years and has spent a lifetime working with dogs.
“It’s for people who want to represent the best of the breed,” he said.
Breeder/owner/handler John Arvin, of Barnegat Township, will show two Rhodesian ridgebacks, Rusty and Pete, this week. The breed has been a favorite of his since the 1980s.
“I bought my first house and my first dog at the same time,” Arvin recalled.
He encouraged anyone with an interest in dogs to visit the show.
“For families that are remotely thinking about having a dog, it’s fun. You can come and see different breeds,” he said.
Dennie said the show is also about camaraderie about the owners and handlers, something visitors will also likely see.
“The dog world is definitely your second family. Everyone pretty much wants to help each other,” she said.
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