RagaMuffin Cat Fanciers’ First Show

  The RagaMuffn Kitten Breeders Society has been in existence for five years. In that time, a handful of breeders and fanciers have promoted the breed, worked toward consistency with a small gene pool and looked forward to sponsoring a CFA show. In 2016, the RagaMuffin Cat Fanciers was formed to allow us to become an official CFA club in order to put on our first show. We were fortunate to be invited to join with Cats Incredible, Inc, the Hudson Valley Cat Club and the Atlantic Himalayan Club for a show weekend March 25-26, 2017.  

  For our club, this was exciting. A small group of people that love their cats gets a chance to tell all of CFA how much we love our cats. We had been fund raising for several years with this goal in mind. Since the show was to be held in the North Atlantic Region, Kathy Hyneman and I were running point for our club. Jim and Teresa Land, Russell Webb and Kevin Brown were working with the other clubs. Our first phone conference made it clear that we wanted this to be a special event that not only included a cat show, but also agility and great vendors with the goal of attracting a large spectator crowd. We decided on the name the Fabulous Feline Festival and to Kathy and my delight, pink and purple for the show colors!  

  Jim and Teresa went immediately out to find a venue big enough to do what we wanted, nice enough to be attractive, affordable, and have easy access for both spectators and exhibitors. They found the Church Farm School in Exton, PA fit the bill. It is in the middle of suburbia, near major roads on the outskirts of Philadelphia. It is a great building, lots of natural light, nice restrooms, easy to get in and out of. In addition to that, they took care of all the CFA paperwork, inviting the judges, gathering the clerks, rooting out stewards, arrangements with the hotels, yummy caterer, and many, many small details that go with running a show.  

  From the RagaMuffin perspective, we knew that since we did not have experience putting on a show that we needed to put forth our best effort to contribute. Sunday was the day designated for RagaMuffins and Himalayans. Kathy ( Kaerik RagaMuffins) was “elected” to be one of the show managers on Sunday along with Kevin Brown ( Brontti Persians). They chose the judges and decided on the rosettes.  

  The first thing I did was to review an article I had read in the August 2016 Cat Tracks about how the Illini Cat Club promoted its recent show with great success. Social media and ring sponsorships were two things I could do! I immediately opened a page on Facebook for the Fabulous Feline Festival to build an audience. I asked RagaMuffins fanciers to “like” the page and share it. The goal of the page was to build awareness and interest in the show starting several months in advance. The great thing about Facebook is that advertising is cheap and can be focused on a limited geographic area and, even better, user special interests, such as cats, kittens, animals. My goal with the Facebook page was to make it something potential spectators would enjoy looking at, promote the show, and give ring sponsors an extra boost for their money. The first Facebook ad I ran for $20 reached 8300 people in our target audience.  

  In order to make the page interesting, I emailed many of my cat show friends and asked for pictures to use of their breeds. After all, just using photos of RagaMuffins would be very limiting. So, I would post a photo of a beautiful cat every so often, posting more frequently as the show got closer. I also made a point to thank sponsors that paid $100 for a day per ring and link the post to their web site or Facebook page. In addition, I wanted to boost the vendors that would be present, so would link to their sites and drum up interest for them.  

  Ring Sponsors were an easy way to raise money. I immediately asked the RagaMuffin people to contribute. A total of twelve rings were sponsored by muffin breeders/fanciers. That was amazing! Since we were planning a 6 x 6 show I figured we could easily do two sponsors per ring.  I set aside a brief time on a regular basis and made phone calls. I had great success in procuring sponsorships from the veterinary specialty hospitals and emergency clinics. Not so much with non-specialty practices with a couple of exceptions. One thing that made it a bit difficult was the fact that we had not done this before, so I could not give businesses a spectator count from previous years. I had no success with boarding facilities or groomers. All were very nice to talk to, but it was a no go. I called all the pet stores in the area as well. Google makes this kind of thing easy. There are three pet cemeteries in the area; one sponsored a ring. In all, I managed to get twenty four ring sponsors. I did ask several breed clubs as well, but had no success. Note to self, be generous when asked to sponsor.  

  Vendors were next on my agenda. We were counting on about 10 spaces. I knew I wanted a variety of cat related items in the hall. I started by contacting vendors I had seen locally, an artist, a toy/bed maker, a cat accessory vendor, a cat tree maker, and a photographer.  I also had a local cat hospital as well as a veterinary emergency clinic sign on. There were others I wanted to invite, but due to space issues, I could not. Again, not being able to produce past numbers of spectators was a bit of a stumbling block. During the show twice daily, I made sure to check in with the vendors to see how things were going. After the show, I emailed both sponsors and vendors to thank them for their participation and sent the sponsors photos of their posters.  

  Catalog ads were difficult for me to sell. I didn’t promote them to the businesses as only the exhibitors would see the catalog. Five RagaMuffin breeders came through with purchasing ads along with the photographer. I’m very appreciative of those people. While the ads were promoted on the yahoo lists, they were not something people were interested in. I’m not sure I would take on that task next time.  

  A BIG promotion was the billboard. Being that Exton is a dense suburban environment, I felt from the beginning that a billboard would pay for itself. I contacted a billboard company for prices. The show committee discussed this several times due to the cost and at last came to an agreement. But, by that time, we were unable to reserve a regular billboard in the area for the month prior to the show. Instead, we were able to reserve space on an electronic billboard in a high traffic area for a week near the show hall. I worked on the design with feedback from the committee and crossed my fingers that it would pay off.  

  Kathy was busy designing, with the help of her sister, the sponsorship posters. It was important that they look nice. Using the pink and purple colors, having professional printing done, it was a tedious task. We found the CFA discount codes to be very helpful in cutting costs. Kathy also managed the acquisition of raffle items. Again, RagaMuffin people stepped up to the plate, some ordering great items on Amazon and having them shipped to Kathy, others mailing in gift cards or bringing items with them to the show. Cat show friends with different breeds like Robin Rommel donated for the raffle. Diane Castor made a beautiful hand knitted baby blanket. Closer to the show, I made some phone calls and sent out emails for cat-centric companies to donate for the raffle. I had some success, but would start much earlier in the process next time.  

  Another thing I did to raise money for the show was design a T-shirt for the Fabulous Feline Festival at booster.com. On that web site, all I had to do was design it in the show colors and then market it on the web.  The more that were sold, the more money RCF made. I asked RagaMuffin people to share the site on social media. I also emailed the link to benching friends that were kind enough to purchase. It turned out to profit over $500, which almost paid for our portion of the rosettes for the show.   Lisa Rowe, a RCF member in Idaho also hosted an online Pampered Chef and Scentsy party to raise money for the show. The profit from that covered the balance for the rosettes.  

  A fancier member of RCF, Linda Druck, is a retired florist. Linda volunteered to do the decorating. It just so happened that a florist friend of hers was closing up shop, so she was able to get many items at no charge. In addition to splendidly decorating the judges table, Linda made a beautiful arrangement for the entrance table, adorable candy dishes and brought matching candy. We were so fortunate to have her on board! Even though her kitty was under the weather and she would not be able to attend the show, she made the drive Friday afternoon to put up the ring decorations.  

  A member of RCF living in Arizona and unable to attend the show, Sonya Erickson of Felisophic RagaMuffins  made significant contributions from afar. In addition to helping me manage the Facebook page and donating wonderful items for the raffle, Sonya did much of the Philadelphia area promotion, sending press releases to Delaware and Philadelphia newspapers, television stations, and radio stations. I listed the Fabulous Feline Festival on Whofish and Eventful.     Early on, Teresa had the idea of having a face painter to attract families. I started making phone calls and found out how expensive they are! Out of our budget for sure. I went in to my veterinary hospital and commented on the expense. As fate would have it, one of my employee’s new daughter-in-law had done face painting in her home state of Texas.  I talked to her, she was excited about doing a cat show and we agreed on an hourly wage and tips. Many of the children that came were thrilled to have kitties painted on their faces.  I did see at least one zombie face go by as well.  

  At one telephone conference, I brought up the challenge of making it a great experience for spectators, without spending a lot of money. I mean, the face painter, agility, the judging, and the vendors were all good, but I wanted more. Kevin came up with the Spectator’s Choice award! Immediately, I thought that was genius. Families could come and vote for their favorite cat. It was decided that as people came through the gate, they would be given a raffle ticket that they could write the number of their favorite cat on as they went through the show. On the way out, the ticket could be deposited in a bucket. The other half of the ticket would be kept at the gate so we would have a count of spectators at the end of the day. Several cats campaigned actively for the award, one being my GPD GC BW RW Kaerik Canterbury Nougat. Nougat won the award both days.  

  One thing that did not pan out was the heart clinic. I lined up a board certified cardiologist to do echocardiograms at a discounted rate. To say it was not successful is an understatement. But, hey, that’s the way things go. It was cancelled well before the date due to lack of interest. Cross that off my list for the future.  

  A challenging aspect was boots on the ground workers for the day of the show. Working the gate, making up for a sick steward and running the raffle in addition to showing cats was an uphill battle. RagaMuffin people again stepped up to the plate. Christine and Bill Santa of SantaCats RagaMuffins worked tirelessly with Christine keeping track of rings and getting all RagaMuffins where they needed to be and Bill working the gate and stewarding. Kellie Williams and her mom Kari Wilson were also helping wherever they were needed in addition to showing their cats. Fanciers Terri and Michael Cassiday flew in from Texas to support the show and gave a tremendous effort to keep things running, working the gate, the raffle, and transporting cats to rings.  

  All in all, it was a learning experience for a new breed and a new club. Experience makes one wiser. There are things that worked and others that, well, are not worth repeating. The production of a successful show entails a lot of work; all the committee members were committed to the job at hand. While this article focused on the contributions and work put in by the RagaMuffin people, this was a joint endeavor course, the exhibitors who came out to support our show. Thanks to all for allowing RagaMuffin Cat Fanciers to be a part of this exhausting, but wonderful experience.