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The drive to Bella Vista Training Center (BVTC) in Lewisberry Pennsylvania was absolutely beautiful. I came from Bloomsburg and my GPS took me a route through curvy mountain roads and quaint small towns. On my stop in Harrisburg, however, the weather changed quickly. According to an alert on my phone and a radar lookup, a tornado was headed straight for us. Thanks to the nice folks at PetSmart, the dogs and I hunkered down in their store along with others in the area seeking some safety.
We were there for the York County Dog Training Club’s agility trial, held May 30 and 31, 2019. According to Terri Turner, one of the area competitors, “Bella Vista Training Center is our ‘favorite-ist’ place!” After my short time there I truly understand why!
Well planned and maintained RV parking area
The agility and training office buildings set a little off the road, with the RVs arranged in a semi-oval shape around the parking lot, situated to the left of the buildings. The RV area has blacktop for parking, with green, well-mown grass all around each lot. They offer 50 AMP electricity only, so bring an adapter if needed. There’s no water hookup. Upon my arrival, my RV neighbors were very friendly. Lexie even offered to show me around once I settled in.
Building open in the evening for crating set-up
The building was open for setting up late that night, although the lights were off. It was nice to set up at that time and I got a good spot for crating. The crating area is in an annex of the building that houses the agility ring, with heavy doors in between. This sure keeps the barking noise down during the trial. There’s ample room for crating in this area, a padded floor, and bulletin boards and tables for awards, worker snacks, and future premiums or training classes.
Nicely arranged ring with a great turf
The room with the ring is arranged well. The ring itself has walls on three sides and gating in front. The practice jump is in front of the ring on one end and is fully fenced. There’s also a gated off area in the front center for bringing in chairs to view the trial. To the right is the secretary’s area. Finally, there’s a vendor area at the very front of the building opposite the ring, which extends the length of the ring.
The turf is Game Day Grass by AstroTurf with infill. It was great to run on. I did fall once, but it was because of the maneuver I was trying to do, not the turf. The air conditioning is also superb. It was adjusted as needed throughout the day, much appreciated as things warmed up.
Other buildings for restroom and lodging
To access the restrooms, you leave the building and walk about 40 feet to a barn-shaped building which has an office and two restrooms. There are outside doors for each restroom, and a shower in one of them. They are very clean and even have a few extras such as first-aid supplies. There’s a ramp for ADA access too.
The upstairs in that same building houses a small apartment that can be rented during agility trials. I never saw it but was told it’s quite nice. Finally, the owners’ home is on the property which has a separate apartment for the judge! Nothing like an all-in-one agility place!
A popular judge
Frank Gilmer from North East, MD was our judge for the two days. He’s one of the area’s most popular judges – known for his great courses and easy-going, friendly personality. My dogs and I had so much fun running under him and Cosmo even QQ, inching ever closer to his first AKC championship.
Nice Group of Vendors
Most vendors arrived later in the morning. But they did not disappoint. There was a good dog masseuse, often needed at agility trials, and an essential oils distributor. The largest vendor was Dog Bones Direct. They had a big selection of tasty treats and chews for dogs, such as meaty bones, knuckles, chicken or duck feet, cow ears, beef ribs, and more. “When there aren’t too many other vendors here, I bring out more products,” the owner told me. That was the case at this trial, so there was an additional rack of dog toys and stacks of dog beds. My dogs went wild over the treats!
While there wasn’t a lunch vendor on-site, you can call an Italian restaurant to place a lunch order for delivery to Bella Vista. Orders need to be in by 10:30 am for delivery that day.
An Active Club!
The York County Dog Training Club doesn’t set around. Jan Brunner, trial chair, explained that the club has been in existence since 1918 and they now have approximately 100 members. The club holds numerous agility trials: two in March – one at In-The-Net in Palmyra and one at Bella Vista; one in May, one in October, and a Novice/Open-only trial in November, all at Bella Vista. In addition to agility, they conduct events or seminars for obedience, rally, farm dog, earthdog, and scent work. The club is working on the addition of tracking tests to their growing list of activities.
Some of their social happenings include a picnic with Bingo, a raffle and silent auction to benefit SPCA and an agility course set-up for kids to run their dogs. They also put on a banquet for the winter holidays and award really nice coolers to members that earn titles. If you’re in the area and want to join an active club, this is certainly one to consider!
Very Involved Facility Owners
Bella Vista Training Center has its share of activity to brag about too. They started in 1998 with outdoor agility lessons and eventually added trials for UKC, NADAC, USDAA, and CPE. “We thought it was the best thing ever when we added lights for outdoor trials,” said Stephanie Capkovic, co-owner along with Rob Kripaitis. They finally added AKC in 2008 when interest in some of the other venues slowed.
Fast forward to 2019 and they have wonderful buildings that are brimming with activity. In a single year, they’re busy most weekends with trials, workshops or seminars. In addition to numerous AKC agility trials, they host two UKI, 8 CPE, and 3 USDAA agility trials. If that’s not enough, they also host obedience, rally and barn hunt. I need to catch my breath because I’m not done yet. Did I mention Bella Vista also offers boarding, grooming, and dog training classes? This is one full schedule!
Stephanie and Rob manage most of the agility trials – performing the entire role of trial secretary and many parts of the trial chair’s role. “We love it,” said one of the club members. “The rent for the facility includes trial secretarial duties, volunteer worker coordination and incentives, all the equipment, RV coordination, and on and on. It makes it much less work for the club!”
Speaking of worker incentives, BVA’s are the most unique I’ve ever encountered. They take the 7 main workers for each class and put a ticket in a cup for each worker. One ticket is drawn from that lot, and the winner gets to choose a $10 gift card of their choice. I actually won this for a class I’d worked and chosen one from Red Robin. There were also gift cards for gas stations, other restaurants, and coupons towards anything at BVTA.
BVA does more than most facilities. “Some of the trials have a theme,” said Stephanie. “We try to make it fun, not just the same thing all the time.” For example, they held a June Jamboree which had a country theme. There are special prizes and incentives for different events. “We go all out,” Stephanie continued. “Last year we turned an RV into a giant shark.”
A very popular event is called the annual BVTC Charity Challenge. There are three clubs involved, and each selects a charity to sponsor. At least $2 from each run benefits the dog charity chosen by the hosting club. For competitors, there’s a team challenge where members of pre-determined agility teams can earn cash prizes starting at $750 for first place. The formula to determine team winners is based on qualifying runs and the number of seconds below standard course time in Standard and JWW classes.
“We also have an event to support the Dog T.A.G.S. program,” said Stephanie. Based in Pennsylvania, this group helps veterans that wish to make their own dog become a certified service dog for them. “It is extremely difficult to get a service dog,” she said. “The waiting list is long, and the organizations training the dogs are limited by resources. Dog T.A.G.S. has teams of trainers that work with the veterans, helping them make their beloved dogs become service dogs for their own use. It’s really a great way we can help pay back our veterans.”
There are very good places to trial and then there are great places to trial that go above and beyond the fun or even business aspect. Bella Vista Training Center fits into the latter category and is well worth an agility trial stop if you’re traveling in Pennsylvania!