Hedgehogs shows in the United States? You bet! The white-bellied African hedgehog (Atelerix albiventris) gained popularity as a pet in the early 1990s. Although hedgehogs are not legal to own in every state, enough hedgehog enthusiasts banded together to create the International Hedgehog Association by 1999. Among other things, the IHA sanctions hedgehog shows.
Hedgehog shows are a chance to meet new friends and old, talk hedgehog, educate the public about hedgehogs and raise funds for hedgehog-related organizations. The shows typically rotate between the East Coast, Colorado and Wisconsin. This year, the East Coast is the site for DelMarVa Hedgie-Con 2013, which takes place from June 28 to June 30 in La Plata, Maryland, only 45 minutes from Washington D.C. It’s the first time Maryland is host for a show, as the previous three East Coast shows took place in New York, Florida and New York again.
Sheila Dempsey, organizer and host for the DelMarVa Hedgie-Con, is expecting 30 to 60 hedgehogs, about 100 hedgehog owners and 100 additional attendees to be at the DelMarVa Hedgie-Con. “[We] usually experience 100 or so regional attendees that come for the curiosity factor or because they’ve been interested in hedgehogs and have come to learn.”
Is one hedgehog show like the others? Yes and no.
“Each show has some common events that the fans expect at a show,” Dempsey said. “For instance, in addition to one or two conformation shows, we all have some sort of costume competition variation for our hedgehogs and a sporting event for the hedgehogs. One thing that is traditional for the Eastern States Hedgehog Show is the ‘Square Pogs Show,’ which was first judged by Naomi Wikane, the Hedgehog Welfare Society’s own ‘Hedgehog Whisperer.’”
Dempsey explained that hedgehogs who don’t meet conformation standards or who might be shy or bitey can still compete in the Square Pogs Show. “All hedgehogs are invited to show in the Square Pogs show, even if they are entered in the conformation shows,” she said. “Each hedgehog will be recognized with an award for their uniqueness.”
If you own a hedgehog and want him or her to compete in the show, you do not have to be an IHA member. Dempsey pointed out, however, that an International Hedgehog Registry number is required if you want your hedgehog to accrue points (earned by placing 1st through 3rd in a show) toward a Permanent Grand Champion Ribbon. She said that a registry number is free to obtain.
DelMarVa Hedgie-Con includes two seminars and a spa-day demonstration on Saturday. Dempsey believes these would be beneficial for anyone who owns a hedgehog or wants to own a hedgehog.
A Rainbow Bridge Memorial to honor hedgehogs or people who have passed is another event common to all hedgehog shows.
“To keep things fresh, each show seems to vary its ceremony each year,” Dempsey said. “We’ve had some shows have specially painted cardstock stars with calligraphied names handed out during a musical portion of the evening and many slide shows.”
Vendors are another common thread between shows. DelMarVa Hedgie-Con will have 10 vendors to satisfy everyone’s hedgehog shopping need.
Dempsey said that the conformation show is broken down into Junior, Adult and Senior divisions.
“Classes are broken down by color,” she said, “which can’t be determined until the check in/health checks and the judge confirms the color of the hedgehog being entered.”
Judging a conformation show takes anywhere from one to two and a half hours, according to Dempsey. DelMarVa Hedgie-Con has conformation shows taking place at 1:30 on Saturday June 29 and at 10 a.m. on Sunday June 30.
“We will have ‘theatre-style’ seating in front of the conformation table and people are encouraged to watch,” Dempsey said. “The judges will be making comments to educate the owners as well as audience. We encourage people to bring a notepad, and if they have questions, we can make one of the judges available to them after the conformation shows to answer questions.”
If you’re thinking of entering your hedgehog in the show, you can register up to the day of the show or even pay at the door to enter.
“One of our main focus points is education about our quilled friends, so we encourage attendance,” Dempsey said.
In addition to everything else, DelMarVa Hedgie-Con has seven “Crazy Hedgehog People & Their Pogs” events. This includes the Square Pogs Show, but also a Hedgehog-Human Look-Alike Contest, Hedgehog Obstacle Course, Mealworm Races, Be The Hedgehog contest, Hedgie Thunderdome and Beltway Bumper Balls. If you’re wondering what some of these are, check the DelMarVa Hedgie-Con site for full details. These events are planned, but the schedule might change.
“We are the first show to hold some of these events, so it will depend on how many people and their pogs enter each one,” Dempsey said. “We have high hopes, though!
Be aware of these important deadlines regarding the show. Vendor registration for the show is closed, but Dempsey said the deadline to register at the show hotel is May 28 to get the show rate. This must be done by calling the Holiday Inn Express directly at 301-392-0065. The deadline to register for Saturday night’s buffet dinner is June 11. Registering for a sponsorship or dedication is open until about June 15. For more details about any of these, email Eastern.States.Hedgie.Show@gmail.com.
Attending the show or registering your hedgehog to compete can be done as late as the day of the show at the door.
“The hedgehog community at large, in my experience, is a very gregarious community,” Dempsey said. “So if you’re shy and not sure about attending an event with ‘a bunch of strangers’ — don’t be! I honestly have yet to meet a hedgehog lover that has ever met a stranger.”
Dempsey said that the first East Coast show, which took place in Schoharie, New York, was the most successful fundraiser to date. She credits part of that success to the excellent planning of the show organizers, Naomi Wikane and Donnasue Graesser.
“Also, in my opinion, the people of Schoharie were incredibly welcoming and generous,” Dempsey said. “I hope the same is shown by the DelMarVa — Delaware, Maryland, Virginia — region this year.”
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