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The relaxing atmosphere at the Bloomsburg Agility Runner’s Club (BARC) agility trial at the town’s fairgrounds last weekend felt more like a CPE trial than AKC. Held for four days over Memorial Day, May 24-27, the trial just felt more low-key than most.
Howard Etzel from Hollidaysburg, PA judged this trial. His courses were fun, challenging and flowed well. Before judging agility trials, he taught math and computers for junior high and high school. “Still having to give those ‘F’s’ in this role,” he joked. The trial was held on a dirt floor inside an arena usually used for horse shows at fair time. This was just one building of many on-site at the Bloomsburg Fairgrounds. Lighting was low, but bright enough for all to see well. This helped with the ambiance too.
BARC achieves its purpose for 10+ years
“Putting on a trial that is fun and relaxing is one of the primary goals of our club,” said Jacqui O’Neill, owner of BarQ 4 Agility trial secretarial services and president of BARC. “The club started over 10 years ago with DOCNA trials. They had several games and were quite fun. We changed to AKC a little over 5 years ago. It was nice that the change didn’t affect the fun and relaxing part!”
There was plenty of room for crating and walkways without running into or stepping over other dogs and competitors. Although this was a smaller trial, there was more to it than that: it was the simple traffic pattern for the dogs. They either left their crates and stood in line to run, or went outside to potty or warm up. The trial secretary, refreshments, and worker raffle were down a narrow walkway so dogs didn’t go down there. A few vendors were in the crating area, but they didn’t go along with their owners there either. And restrooms were a hike across the parking lot. This all helped prevent congestion.
While not air-conditioned, there are large doors in the front, back and one side of the arena that were opened as it heated up outside. A large industrial fan near the top of the arena’s peak on its far side helped move the air.
Awesome dirt floor
The well-packed dirt was nice to run on for the dogs and easier on my back than most mat floors. It was oiled down well enough to keep the dust at bay, but not too much as it never packed down – even after 4 days of trialing. A competitor dropped her cell phone on it during a walk and it just bounced a little. If you like newer equipment you’ll get it here every trial. Max 200 provides all of the equipment and then sells it at a 10% discount at the end of the final day.
The running order grouped the Master/Excellent courses together and put the Open and Novice courses at the end of the day. You know, like most trials used to be like. Novice and Open participants don’t have to arrive so early, and Master/Excellent participants can leave early. Personally, my dogs run much better if they don’t have to wait in their crates for up to 6 hours between runs. “Everyone likes it this way. Some people worry about not having enough workers at the end of the day, but there’s always that issue and we make it work,” Jacqui said. “We also run jumpers first thing in the morning. It makes it easier on the small ring crew that’s left to set up the night before. Plus Jumpers is a nice class for dogs to get their zoomies out before doing contacts.”
The walk to the restroom is a slight downside, but only because it is out in the elements. There are many trials where restrooms are much farther away. This one just seems farther because of the parking lot between the restroom and the arena. The restrooms are open 24×7 during show hours, as are the numerous shower stalls in the same building. There’s a fee of 50 cents (quarters) to use them.
Great for RVs
There’s no shortage of RV parking here. Jacqui spaces RV’s nicely around the arena building and assigns spots where there’s decent grass nearby for the dogs. The electric is 30AMP. The connection requires a twist-type plug adapter which most people don’t have. The club rents them for a $20 deposit and returns the full amount when the adapter is returned.
Largest non-state owned fairground
The location is typical of many fairgrounds with buildings for different types of livestock. An interesting fact about this fairground is that it is not owned by the state, but is owned by the city of Bloomsburg. Although I’ve definitely seen larger fairgrounds, “this is the largest non-state owned fairground in the U.S.,” according to Jacqui. There’s a track for horses which often is used during trials. The area is open to the public during show hours too. Since the culture in this area is that well-behaved dogs can walk off leash, that may occur at times during the show.
BARC is currently the only club that hosts agility trials at the fairgrounds. In addition to their spring trial, they hold a 5-day trial in October. They’ve got a multi-talented, multi-tasking leader too. Jacqui is not only a licensed AKC trial secretary but she also judges for both AKC and UKI. “I primarily judge in the summer,” she said. “There are some smaller clubs that consistently hire me as their secretary. I spend winters in Florida so there are judging and trial secretary opportunities there too.” At this trial Jacqui held her own during the open and novice classes: in addition to her secretary job, she also timed and scribed at the same time. Since her table and computer is right at ringside, she also eliminated the need for a sheet runner for those classes. All this and she maintained a relaxed and fun attitude! Just like our feelings go down the leash, the leader’s feelings tend to shape the culture of trials. If you like fun and relaxed trials this one’s a real gem.