Eastern Hernando County is known for its lush greenery, seasonal fragrant orange blossoms and gently rolling hills. And once a year, Florida Classic Park at 5360 Lockhart Road in Brooksville becomes the setting for what is described as the "largest dog show in Florida".
Beginning Jan. 6 and running through the Jan. 20, several thousand canines representing as many as 120 different breeds are expected to fill the 50-acre park for an American Kennel Club dog show that combines five local clubs, including Clearwater Kennel Club, Inverness Florida Kennel Club, Manatee Kennel Club, Pasco Florida Kennel Club, and Tampa Bay Kennel Club.
Sponsored by Purina and hosted by the Florida Gulf Coast Cluster, the event, now in its 16th year in Hernando County, is open to all breeds that compete in confirmation, junior showmanship, and obedience and rally trials.
It attracts visitors from across the country and world to compete, network and share their love for canines. The 10 days are action-packed, with seminars and workshops, more than 60 venders, a food court and opportunities to get up close with most breeds of canines.
The January show brings a little something for everyone, whether or not visitors have a dog competing, said Pat Lombardi, spokeswoman for Florida Classic Park.
"Many come to see the different breeds," she said.
Spectators can bring their dogs to the event and participate in the Doggy Fun Zone obstacle course.
"The dogs can have a bunch of fun," Lombardi said.
Visitors will get to go behind the scenes to learn how the dogs are judged and how to prepare for shows. Visitors can meet the contestants and their handlers and various breeders will offer information and other opportunities to learn how to get involved in AKC shows.
Venders will sell pet items including pet jewelry, toys, dog food and treats.
The dog show is open daily to the public from Jan. 6 through Jan. 20 with most competitions occurring between 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
The American Kennel Club dog shows have been going on for decades across the country, Lombardi said, and usually scheduled every weekend of the year, excluding Christmas. More than 700 all-breed clubs exist as well as some specialty breed clubs. Each club is allowed two competitions a year which are monitored and regulated by the AKC.
Competitors are given points at each show which accumulate throughout the lifetime of their competitive careers.
"The No. 1 dog in the country right now is a wire-haired fox terrier from California," which will be at the show, Lombardi said.
For the Florida Gulf Coast Cluster, January is their opportunity to shine, allowing each of the five clubs two competitions.
It is a pretty important event, said Lombardi, who has competed in the past. This year, however, her focus has been on providing an amazing experience for those who anticipate all year the best the Florida Gulf Coast Cluster has to offer.
For more information about the Florida Gulf Coast Cluster AKC Dog Show in Brooksville, contact Pat Lombardi at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Contact Hernando Today correspondent Kim Dame at email@example.com.