Top golden retriever to be crowned in Conyers

CONYERS -- Dog lovers who have a special affinity for golden retrievers have an opportunity to see this breed at its best during the 2011 National Specialty Competition Sunday, Sept. 25 to Saturday, Oct. 1 at the Georgia International Horse Park.

Collette Jaynes, chairwoman for the Specialty Competition, said the event is the pinnacle event of the year for golden retrievers.

"It's kind of like what the Kentucky Derby is to thoroughbreds," Jaynes said. "There are dog shows all over the place all year and it culminates in this one event."

The Specialty Competition, which is sponsored by the Golden Retriever Club of America and hosted by the Atlanta Golden Retriever Club, has nearly 2,700 entries, with many coming from overseas -- Australia, Italy, Finland, England -- according to Jaynes. Participants will be judged through a series of events to crown the top golden retriever in the nation.

"There is going to be a sea of golden retrievers," said Jaynes.

The Specialty Competition will include a variety of events for participants, from a golf tournament Monday at Cherokee Run Golf Club, to a black-tie gala dinner for more than 500 Thursday evening in Walker Arena. Jaynes said that the top 20 goldens in the country have been invited to this event where they will be judged and an overall winner and a people's choice winner will be selected.

All proceeds from the golf tournament and gala go toward the Golden Retriever Foundation and its efforts to eliminate cancer in the breed, Jaynes said.

Among the events open to the public is the Best of Breed competition scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 1, starting at 8 a.m. According to Jaynes, only champions may enter this competition. This year there are 184 entries. At the beginning of the event the champions will enter the arena to the music of bagpipe players, a tribute to the breed's origins in the Scottish Highlands.

Jaynes said that there will also be about 40 vendors from throughout the country selling all types of dog-related goods during the competition.

Jennifer Bexley, director of the horse park, said the Specialty Competition brings a lot of positive economic impact to the community. In addition, based on past events, the competition will be a positive experience at the horse park.

"A couple of years ago we hosted a National Specialty for Australian shepherds," Bexley said. "It was just a fantastic event all the way around. It was very well run, the people were just as nice as they could be."

Bexley said the Golden Retriever Club has reserved a number of the facilities at the horse park for the week-long program, including some barns, the covered arena, the equestrian center, the Glens, the Carriage Room, and the retail space.

"They are going to be using a lot of the park," Bexley said. "From our experience before, the dog people are just great to work with."

Field trials for the competition will be held in Madison.

For a full schedule of public events at the National Specialty Competition, which are free of charge, visit http://atlantagoldens.org/National/Schedule-Events.htm.

Bexley said that spectators who visit the park during the competition will be directed to events by signage.