BROOKSVILLE - Nearly 2,000 dogs representing 153 different breeds competed in the Florida Gulf Coast Clusters Winter Dog Show Saturday at Florida Classic Park in Brooksville.
The show started Monday and continues through Jan. 19.
Billed as the largest dog show in Florida, the American Kennel Club show is hosted by five area clubs - Clearwater Kennel Club, Inverness Florida Kennel Club, Manatee Kennel Club, Pasco Florida Kennel Club and Tampa Bay Kennel Club - on the 50-acre show grounds at 5360 Lockhart Road.
This is the 16th time the show has been held in Hernando County. Last year the show was held in Ocala.
"We're all thrilled to be back," said Beth Carr, who chaired Saturday's show on behalf of the Inverness club.
Carr said the clubs purchased the land years ago with the intent of growing the show to what it is this year: 10 days of shows and seminars, hundreds of motor homes parked on the property, more than 60 vendors and participants traveling from all over the country and the world to attend.
"It's all about bragging rights and ribbons," said Dan Dahlberg of the Manatee Kennel Club.
Dahlberg said the show grounds are considered exceptional, and offer running pens for the dogs, a veterinarian on the premises, as well as heart and eye clinics sponsored by his club and staffed by volunteers.
Dahlberg said he was thrilled the show is back in Brooksville, and said local businesses are excited about the economic boost. Dahlberg said a Hernando County impact study expects the show to bring in at least $1.5 million.
"We're here to stay and not leaving anymore, that's for sure," Dahlberg said, adding the kennel clubs intend to keep improving property and growing the show's numbers in coming years.
"This is the first year I've come out (to the Florida Gulf Coast Clusters show)", said Dawn Ciarlone, of Oklahoma, who attended the show Saturday with her bulldogs, Barney and Odie.
"I love downtown, historic Brooksville; the show site is beautiful and the locals are extremely friendly," Ciarlone said.
The show continues today and Monday, and Jan. 15-19. Show hours are 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Admission is free, parking is $5. More information is available at http://floridaclassicpark.com.