Running an American Singer Section or Specialty Show written by Marie Miley-Russell copyright 2007, all rights reserved
Permission is granted by the author for limited reproduction of this article for educational, nonprofit purposes by American Singers Club chapters. For other uses, please email the author at firstname.lastname@example.org.
DRAGON, American Singers Club Chapter 22 has been sponsoring shows for the past twenty-five consecutive years and, according to many who have attended, runs one of the most enjoyable and smooth-running shows around.
Everyone knows that having a successful show takes time and organization. However, nothing at all can happen without having a team of dedicated, hardworking club members who are willing to do whatever it takes to make things work.
The best way to learn to run a show is to volunteer to work them- not only your own club’s show but those of other clubs as well. This will give you an idea of the many different ways of doing things and help you to find those methods most likely to work best for your club. Each job you volunteer for is a training session.
You need to allow yourself adequate time for preparation- a year is ideal, but things can be pulled together in less time if your club members are experienced and willing to work very hard. Preferably, the location and date of your show should be set up well in advance to allow for planning for the show itself.
Setting a date for your show can be critical to its success - too early and some exhibitors may not attend due to their birds not being in full song while a date late in the year can affect a show adversely as well as breeders have trimmed their show teams and some birds may be moving into hard song. Selecting a date on which several other shows occur can cause other problems. Conflicting shows in the same region can decrease the numbers of exhibitors who must choose attending one show over another, sometimes causing both shows to fail to meet their entry requirements to get full points for the show. Several shows on the same date also restricts the availability of judges who are either committed to working the show of his or her own club or is already judging on the date of your show.
One of the best methods of determining whether a particular show date would conflict is simply to call clubs in the area and find out what events they may have scheduled and the dates they have set.
A strong, capable show manager and an organized and focused show secretary are invaluable members of your team.
In the DRAGON club, the show manager is an elected officer. The show manager may be assisted by an assistant show manager delegated to handle publicity or other duties as needed.
The show manager and his or her assistant must be willing to spend several hours throughout the year volunteering. Duties are light in the early part of the year, but increase substantially as the show approaches.
The primary responsibility of the show manager is to make sure that all jobs are covered, doing the work him- or herself if required. (A breakdown of jobs is provided later in this article.) At DRAGON’s early September meeting- our show is held in November- lists are circulated and members sign up for jobs and supplies they are willing to bring. The show manager must be organized, a good communicator, and an excellent motivator.
DRAGON has been holding its annual show in the same location for twenty five years and reserves the show hall for the next year immediately following the completion of each show. Clubs which are starting out or searching for a hall are best advised to find an location as early as possible and reserve it as far in advance as allowed- preferably for the following year whenever possible. Much of a show’s planning must take into account the physical realities of the show’s location- knowing this well in advance can be vital if special arrangements must be made to make things work. Every show’s holding and judging areas are different- some situations require creative solutions, but can work if you are prepared, creative, and adaptable.
The show manager ensures that the show hall is booked well in advance and that judging arrangements are made.
The show manager communicates with judges on the list of sanctioned judges provided by the American Singers Club, Inc. and solicits bids for judging the show (this is preferable done at least two years in advance). He or she presents these bids to the President of the club so that club members can vote to accept or decline judging bids. After members have voted, the show manager ensures that judging contracts are sent to the judges and returned. He or she ensures that travel arrangements are made on behalf of the judge as required (airline reservations, etc.), lodging is reserved for the judge if necessary, and arrangements are made to transport the judge to and from the show hall.
The show manager orders ribbons, rosettes, and oversees the purchase of crystal, pewter, and silver items which are given as trophies at the show. Club members sponsor particular trophies such as Best in Show, Best Young, Best Old, Best Hen, 1st Year Fancier, Journeyman, Tutor American Singer, Team Award and can also make donations to the general trophy fund.
The show manager also sees that the show is publicized through the media and by the creation and placement of flyers and other literature. He or she serves as contact person and inquiries regarding the show are directed to this person.
The show manager directs the setup of the show hall on the Friday before the show in the early afternoon prior to the arrival of exhibitors.
On the day of the show, the show manager oversees the team of volunteers and directs help to wherever it is needed and provides assistance as necessary.
In DRAGON, the holding and judging areas are under the secondary management of the show secretary, who is named by the show manager. (The judge is always the primary manager of these areas, although the show secretary can and will step in if necessary to ensure that the show is conducted in accordance with the constitution of the American Singers Club.) The show secretary is responsible for the overall efficient, organized functioning of the heart and soul of the show- the judging process. In fact, outside of the exhibitors themselves the two most important people at an American Singer show are the judge and the secretary- without these two people, there could be no judging.
The show secretary communicates with the show manager as necessary and ensures that needed items such as entry and judging forms, show tags, pipe cleaners to secure cage doors, carrying boards, sheets for covering birds, etc. are ordered or purchased and available on the day of the show.
The show secretary sees that the tables in the holding area are set up and arranged as necessary to bench the birds. He or she sets up an area to work in- usually a large table and a pair of chairs. The desk is usually situated as to allow the secretary to have the wall to her back when she is seated so as to prevent exhibitors from viewing score sheets during transcription.
The show secretary arranges for the carrying boards to be brought to the hall and sees that they are present on Friday during benching in preparation for judging beginning early Saturday morning.
All entering of the birds is performed by the show secretary. Placement of young and old singers in classes is conducted by the secretary and altered as necessary. The secretary writes the cage numbers of the birds in each class on index cards and arranges these cards on the tables in the holding area. Under his or her direction, birds are classed as indicated on the index cards. The secretary checks each class to ensure that all cages have been classed properly and signs off on the index cards.
If a hen class is on the schedule, hens are placed on a table adjacent to the secretary’s table. During the day of judging, those hens found singing are considered males and disqualified from consideration.
Under the show secretary’s direction, all classes are covered with white sheets- each class has its own sheet so the birds are not disturbed when the class next to them is uncovered- and the lights are turned off.
The show secretary arrives prior to the judge in the morning to prepare for judging. Pieces of paper with the class letters on them are prepared, folded, and placed in a bowl for the judge to pick the day’s class order. As the judge picks a class, the secretary notes this and prepares a class list for exhibitors. The class list and cage numbers of each bird in the class are posted so exhibitors may find their birds. As classes are judged first, second, and third placed cages are noted on the class list.
All place-winning birds are sorted according to placement on separate tables. Birds which did not place are returned to the holding tables. The show secretary has discretion over who may enter this area and if birds may be removed from the holding area. No place-winning birds may be removed from the first, second, or third place tables.
The show secretary will be on duty the entire day of judging. The show secretary oversees volunteers carrying boards into and from the judging room, ensures that score sheets are collected from the judge after each class, and transcribes the scores and judge’s notes onto the exhibitor’s sheets. He or she makes sure the next class of birds is uncovered ten minutes prior to the end of the class being judged and sees that birds are placed randomly on the carrying board through some randomization method such as drawing numbers, etc. He or she makes sure that the next class is carried into the judging room as soon as the last class leaves, carrying birds with the judge if necessary.
The show secretary provides assistance to the judge as necessary.
The show secretary protects the anonymity of the ownership of entries as much as possible- not providing such information to anyone. He or she does not disclose score information to exhibitors or to visitors until the end of the show.
The show secretary maintains a list of top scoring birds throughout the day so that top-placing birds can be collected for the judge when preparing for awards to be presented. He or she notifies the judge of ties if necessary.
Under the judge’s direction, the show secretary oversees the collection and placement of birds which have placed on the bench and assists in the announcement of show winners. He or she oversees the placement of all appropriate rosettes on the winner’s cages and sees that medallions and trophies are provided to exhibitors who have won. The show secretary is responsible for ensuring that monetary prizes, if any, are awarded to winning exhibitors.
The show secretary provides show score forms to exhibitors after awards are presented.
The show secretary releases birds from the bench and oversees the placement of cages in stacks according to exhibitor name. No birds are released from the bench without the secretary’s authorization.
Selecting a Judge
The American Singers Club, Inc. provides a list of sanctioned American Singer judges from which a judge must be selected. Methods of judge selection vary from show to show.
DRAGON solicits bids from the entire slate of judges each year. A bid request letter is sent to every judge on the ASC list. This letter provides for a deadline by which all bids must be returned. At the first business meeting following the set deadline, the president presents each judge’s bid to the membership and voting to choose which bid to accept takes place. (Variables considered include financial considerations, whether the judge has judged nearby shows recently, etc.) The judge whose bid is selected is notified and if he or she accepts the assignment, a judging contract is sent by the show manager to the judge. When the contract has been signed and returned, the president signs the contract and a copy is made for the judge and sent to him so that he may have it for future reference.
Judges whose bids are declined are notified by mail as soon as possible so they may accept another show on that date.
Other shows telephone or email selected judges chosen by the membership, the show manager, or the club president and continue contacting judges until one is found who is available and whose requirements fall within the show’s budget for judging expenses.
Some all-bird or all-canary shows which sponsor an American Singer section solicit a list of three or so ASC judges from American Singer exhibitors while others choose which judges to contact on their own.
Most AS judges will not judge other types of birds (i.e. Borders, etc.) as judging a full section of American Singers can easily take the entire day.
Contracting a Judge
Once a judge has been selected and an expense agreement worked out, a club should write out in detail exactly what has been agreed to in terms of judge’s fee; travel, lodging, and food expenses; and other judging costs. This should be signed by both the club and the judge and copies provided to both parties.
This written agreement should include details regarding who is responsible for making arrangements- will the judge book his or her own flight, will he or she be lodging with a friend or club member or will the club reserve a hotel room? Some judges merely state a judging fee and cover all of their own expenses, some clubs reimburse judges’ out-of-pocket costs while other clubs pay for everything and the judge has to spend little out of his own pocket.
However your club and the judge decide to handle these costs, be sure to have everything down in writing so neither party receives an unpleasant surprise at the last minute.
Planning a Show Budget
An American Singer show can cost hundreds, even thousands of dollars and you cannot expect to make enough to cover show expenses with entry fees and raffle income alone. In fact, most shows lose money. With creativity, hard work, and frugality it is possible for a club to make enough that a show will only cost them a few hundred dollars. DRAGON conducts year-round fundraising and is able to cover show expenses even in years when extra unexpected expenditures arise which would sink a club without some sort of financial reserves.
The largest expense will be your first show. Following that, the previous year’s show income should largely cover the following year’s show. Many clubs have a separate account for the show, but DRAGON maintains only one account and assumes that all funds are committed for the shows. We maintain an extremely frugal attitude and watch expenses closely throughout the year. Additionally, club members contribute monthly through raffles at business meetings and DRAGON sells song tapes, breeding videos, and t-shirts. Garage sales, bake sales, etc. are helpful as well. Maintaining a show mentality all year long helps a great deal in raising funds to cover expenses in the fall.
A raffle table at your show will help raise money and are popular. Raffle items such as bags of seed, cages, bird toys, show cages, bird-related books, handmade items, and such things can be donated by club members and solicited from companies which sell pet-related products. Area pet stores will often contribute gift certificates and products as well in exchange for advertisements in the show’s catalogue. Some clubs raffle birds as well.
Entry fees in most American Singer shows range from $1-2 per bird, sometimes more for shows in which birds are brought before multiple judges such California’s annual Quad. A small fee is sometimes charged for sale birds, usually with a maximum cap (i.e. $1 per bird with a maximum of $10).
Admission can be charged for entry to the show as well.
Ideally, a show hall is located in a hotel. This offers great convenience to exhibitors coming from out of town who may be unfamiliar with the area. Many hotels offer discounted rates to groups if a certain number of rooms are rented. Many shows are held in church and recreation centers. So long as lodging is nearby, this works as well.
Finding a suitable location which offers easy access to expressways, is inexpensive, has an adequate amount of room and suitable setup, permits birds, and is available from the afternoon on Friday through late Saturday night can be a daunting prospect. Once a club locates such a place, it is best advised to book it out as far as possible in advance- years if possible. (Once again, a contract is advisable.)
Two rooms are ideal for showing American Singers- a holding area (this can be located in the show hall where other types of birds are shown in all-bird shows) and a separate judging room. In the past, American Singer shows have managed to work things out in situations far less than this ideal- judges have judged in holding areas and one creative group of individuals managed to create a judging room out of a coat-check room which had only a half-door and was located near the front entrance of the hall where people passed in and out all day long by using cardboard and duct tape- but preferably, an American Singer section will have two rooms.
The holding area must be large enough to accommodate 150 or more birds grouped in classes. There must be an adequate number of tables and enough space to walk between the tables and carry birds. A table to place the carrying boards on must be positioned so that birds can be placed on the boards and carried into the judging room. The judging room must be large enough to accommodate the carrying board, a table on which to place the board, and permit the judge to sit 8 feet away from the birds. The judging room should have a door which can be closed. If not, something must be placed over the entry to prevent the birds from becoming distracted by passersby and people from entering during judging sessions. If the door has a window, this window must be covered. Ideally, the room will be located away from the main traffic areas of the show and close to the holding area.
Judging rooms can be large or small- both have their own advantages. Preferably, a judging room will be large enough to allow visitors to sit in on judging sessions. Things such as stacks of extra chairs and tables, refrigerators and other appliances which turn on and off, enormous paintings, and windows may startle the birds but do not necessarily make a judging area unusable. Clubs may have their own judging area bench and lighting setup which consists of a frame from which florescent vita lights are hung and white sheets which wrap around the judging area and block the birds’ view from the rear, sides, top, and bottom are very useful in these situations.
The show manager is responsible for naming volunteers to each position, monitoring progress, and ensuring that all jobs are completed.
Most shows provide a show catalogue- gathering examples from each show you attend will help greatly when you begin to create your own.
The show catalogue should contain the show’s rules, a schedule of awards, lists of donors, and advertisements from members and vendors. Show catalogues can also contain a club member list, lodging information, information about the breed and American Singer song. Selling advertising can help cover printing costs. Occasionally a printing company may donate printing or provide a discount in exchange for advertising.
DRAGON usually has its catalogues printed a month in advance and distributes copies to members and exhibitors likely to attend, reserving all remaining copies to be handed out at the show.
Show awards can be extremely expensive. Should a club be very low on funds, it could simply award the bare minimum.
The ASC provides rosettes for the five top scoring birds in a show and three medallions for the three top scoring birds in shows with at least 100 birds entered. Two medallions are awarded in shows with 50-99 birds entered and one in shows with 49 or fewer entries. A certificate is given to the top scoring bird.
If class ribbons and host club rosettes are to be awarded, orders must be placed several months in advance. Sufficient quantities of ribbons must be purchased for each class- perhaps your show can expect to have 25 classes of young birds and 10 classes of old birds; you would need 35 blue, 35 red, 35 white ribbons for the classes but you should order extra just in case they are needed. Stickers are also available for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place. They are considerably less expensive than ribbons. Host club rosettes can be imprinted with the club’s name and make very nice mementoes for exhibitors whose birds are successful at the show.
Rosettes can be tacked on a very large sheet (perhaps 4’by 8’) of Styrofoam. At the show hall at which DRAGON hold its annual show, the walls of the hall are constructed of concrete block from which metal hangers can be hung. Rosettes and medallions are placed on hangers and hung within easy reach of awards presenters when the winners are announced at the end of the show.
DRAGON has long established a list of crystal, pewter, and silver items given as trophies along with the ASC rosettes and medallions and DRAGON rosettes. Knowing in advance what these items are, club members shop all year long for the best deals and purchase items for several years in advance when especially good deals are located. DRAGON also awards monetary prizes for Best in Show, Second, Third, Fourth, Fifth overall; Best, second, and third young males; and Best and second place young hens. Many American Singer shows do not offer monetary awards.
A volunteer with excellent communication and diplomacy skills is required to solicit donations to be raffled at the show. Companies and businesses can be contacted by phone, in person, or by written letter. Companies will want to know the name and purpose of the organization for which the donation is being solicited, the date and location of the raffle, and the location to which donations must be sent.
Donations should be requested one to two months prior to the show date. At the present time, certain companies seem to be experiencing “raffle fatigue” and are becoming increasingly selective about where, what, and how much they are donating so creativity on the part of the raffle table manager is a definite bonus.
All donations must be stored somewhere and transported to the show hall, so the raffle table manager must be able to do this or be provided assistance to do so.
Each raffle item should be laid out on a table, numbered, and a container with the corresponding number placed beside it. People then place their tickets in the containers for those items which they wish to try to win.
Staffing of the raffle table consists of people to sell tickets, an announcer, and people to give the items to the winners. A single person- the raffle table manager- is responsible for handling the money, counting it, and turning it over to the show manager.
Free advertising opportunities do in fact exist, especially (but by no means exclusively) on the internet. The American Singers Club provides a list of ASC sanctioned shows on its website at www.upatsix.com/asc. Many bird-related websites have show calendars and welcome clubs to post show information. Newspapers will occasionally agree to run stories about local people and happenings and sometimes run “local happenings” information columns. Television stations will sometimes air short spotlights on a local bird show as well. Of course, word of mouth is always free and can be very effective as well.
Flyers can be printed and posted in local pet stores and other places for nominal cost.
DRAGON offers three meals to exhibitors, workers, and judges- Friday night dinner, Saturday morning breakfast, and Saturday afternoon supper. Additionally, it runs a kitchen which offers snacks, beverages, and desserts throughout the day on Saturday. This necessitates the naming of a kitchen manger and staffing of the kitchen.
The kitchen manager prepares menus for each meal and prepares a list of dishes and supplies which club members can volunteer to prepare or bring. The kitchen manager does all shopping for items which DRAGON supplies and ensures that each club member has signed up for a dish to bring. With the assistance of volunteers staffing the kitchen, all dishes are prepared and served and dishes and the kitchen are cleaned.
Many shows offer only light snacks and refreshments and some locations offer meal or snack service.
Setup Crew- the show hall needs to set up and be ready for the arrival of exhibitors prior to the scheduled benching time. Volunteers need to be at the show hall several hours in advance and able to carry boxes, move tables, chairs, and other items; cover tables with cloths, set up the bench and lighting setup in the judging room, and myriad other tasks under the direction of the show manager and show secretary. The setup crew can consist of club members and family and friends of club members (by far the least expensive option) or can be hired. In some areas, local service groups such as the Boy Scouts will assist with setup for a donation.
Chauffer- if the judge will be flying in, you will need someone to pick the judge up from the airport and transport him or her to and from the hotel and show hall. This person must be provided with the flight numbers and arrival times of the judges and should have access to a cell phone should the judge be delayed for some reason. This person should also be able to pick the judge up early in the morning on the day of judging.
Stewards- under the direction of the show secretary, stewards are responsible for moving and organizing cages in the holding area; ensuring that all birds have food and water, cage doors are secured, and show tags are properly placed; placing cages on the carrying boards and carrying them to and from the judging area. At least two are needed at all times during judging.
Sale Birds- at specialty shows, American Singer sale birds are usually grouped in a single area in the show hall and individual sellers manage their own sales. All-bird or all-canary shows often require sale birds to be placed in a common sale-bird area and sometimes provide staffing to sell birds. At shows where club members are stretched thin, it may be advisable to assign a single member to oversee the sale of birds so that other members may be used where they are needed more. This also prevents managers of certain areas from being abandoned by their help when buyers pull volunteers away from their jobs to talk about birds.
Security- security usually consists of ensuring that the holding area and judges room is locked or otherwise secured in the evening before judging. At all-bird shows, the club sponsoring the AS section usually takes care of this, but the show secretary should ensure that he or she is the last person in the room in the evening (if a separate one has been provided for the holding area) and the first one in the room in the morning and the door is locked after she leaves and remains locked when he or she arrives. If locking the door is not possible, arrangements must be made for someone to be posted near the birds.
Oddjobbers- these folks are responsible for the odds and ends which come up in running the show. They locate people and pass messages between the show secretary and show manager and the show secretary and the judge. They serve as runners for assorted supplies and pieces of equipment, unpack and set up the awards table, and the myriad little things that pop up and need doing. Oddjobbers assist the judge in the judging room reading cage tag numbers and tying place ribbons on show cages.
Cleanup Crew- responsible for breaking down all equipment, packing all equipment in an orderly and organized fashion, and transporting everything to the location where it will be stored until the following year. Cleans area- vacuums floors, wipes down tables and chairs, cleans kitchen, throws out trash, etc. Breaks down tables, stacks chairs and returns them to storage areas and other locations as directed. These folks work for an hour or longer after all other folks have left the show site. The cleanup crew is under the supervision of the show manager and show secretary. As cleanup usually occurs after 9pm, the cleanup crew usually consists of club members and their family.
For American Singer shows, someone must launder and repack all sheets used to cover the birds and the judging setup.
Some show locations such as hotels provide cleanup, but be sure to get confirmation of the site’s expectations before leaving the site a mess or your club could end up with an unpleasant surprise. Regardless, it may be a good idea to leave the site as clean as possible to ensure that your club will be welcome in the future.
Post Show Activities
In the weeks following the show, a complete show report should be completed and prepared for presentation to the club at its next business meeting.