Master Nationals come to town

Published 4:45 pm Friday, October 12, 2012

The Master Nationals will take place in Demopolis from Oct. 20 to Oct. 28. Shown from left are retrievers Shyne and June with owner John Blackbird.

John and Karen Blackbird settled into The Best Western on Friday afternoon accompanied by their two Labrador retrievers Shyne and June.

The Blackbirds, who live in Minnesota, are in town to compete in the 2012 Master National Event held at the State Cattle Ranch, known now as the M. Barnett Lawley Forever Wild Field Trial Area.

The Master National Retriever Club (MNRC) along with the local Black Warrior Retriever Club, will host the 21st annual Master National event.

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“Shyne has competed and passed the Master Nationals three consecutive years,” said John Blackbird, Region 2 President of the MNRC.

Blackbird competed in his first competition in 1990 and has since competed with 10 dogs.

The Demopolis area was selected to host this year’s Master National along with the test site of Forever Wild located in Hale County.

“This is a great opportunity to pursue outdoor activities and it is the first Master Nationals event in the state of Alabama,” Read Holland, chairman of the event said.

Alongside the magnitude of the event and its historical impact being in Demopolis, there is also some economic impact as well.

Demopolis is the host city to guests from across the country and from as far away Canada, who will all be accompanied by 712 competing dogs.

“All these people will bring money into the area as they are visiting restaurants and staying in hotels,” Holland said.

The event uses a series of field tests to determine qualifiers.

The judges score the dogs by a set of standards after they complete land and water field tests.

The field testing will start on Saturday, Oct. 20 and conclude on Sunday, Oct. 28, occuring each day from 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. In the event, Blackfield said the dogs are judged on whether they meet the standards.

The retriever teams have already started to arrive and more will arrive daily until the opening ceremony and banquet which will be held Oct. 18 at the New Era building.

The MNRC expects 750 guests to the banquet which will include local and state officials.

The public is welcome to attend the Master Nationals free of charge and should bring a folding chair and wear dark colored clothes.

“Visitors are more than welcome to attend the event, they should bring their own folding chairs and wear dark clothing,” Holland said.