A hamster show can seem a confusing place where everyone (apart from you) appears to be busy with a job. Often the same people are doing the jobs each show; volunteers are welcomed to help spread the work, especially new volunteers who are keen to get more involved with their shows and club. There are lots of different roles at each show and within clubs that help with the smooth running of shows and the clubs themselves.
When you think of shows, the first people you often think of are the judges. They are the ones looking at every hamster, considering how they meet the standard and awarding points. Judges can’t enter hamsters in the section they are judging at a show. There are different types of judges for the main show: club judges, guest judges and NHC judges.
Club judges are members of the club they’re judging at, whereas guest judges usually aren’t. In most instances the club and guest judges will have gone through a similar training process to become a judge (being signed off for 3 pen stewardings, 3 book stweardings and doing 3 assessed judgings). A judge trains for either the Syrian or the Dwarf section, so to be a qualified Syrian and Dwarf judge you have to do the training twice. Sometimes a guest judge may have been invited from abroad where the training process is different.
NHC judges are experienced judges who have done additional training after being approved as a club judge. In order to start training as an NHC judge, someone must have been a club member continuously for at least 4 years, have been a club judge for at least 2 years, and have judged at least 6 times as a qualified judge. They then need to pass a further 2 book stewardings and judging assessments under a qualified NHC judge. When an NHC judge is judging a club show, a diploma class can be added to the duplicate classes.
You may notice that there may be different numbers of judges at different shows. Usually there is one judge for the Syrian section and one for the Dwarf section. Sometimes, if a show is usually very small, one judge who is qualified to judge both the Syrian and Dwarf section may judge all the main class hamsters, though this isn’t that common at the moment. Sometimes there may be two judges for one section if the entry is large. This is usually the Syrian section, and one judge does the short-haired Syrians and one the long-haired Syrians. The Syrian Best in Show in this situation is usually decided by both judges between the best short-haired and the best long-haired Syrian.
The show secretary takes the entries, prepares the paperwork for the judges, writes the pen labels and prize cards, and submits the results to the journal and the money to the club treasurer. They also liaise with the club show manager about hire pen requirements.
Book stewards are the people sitting next to the judge. They write down the judge’s comments and add up the marks. They also write the pen numbers of the 1st-4th place hamsters on a slip which is signed by the judge and given to the show secretary after each class. The role of the book (and pen) stewards is to help the judge keep the judging flowing. Book stewards can enter hamsters in the section they are stewarding. The book steward should never offer a comment about any hamster on the judging bench, whether or not it is theirs, unless a judge asks them their opinion.
There are quite a few abbreviations used in the judging sheets to make it faster to write the comments in a small space. I won’t cover those now, but can do so in a different blog post. At Southern and Midland Hamster Club shows, judges, book stewards and pen stewards are encouraged to wear white coats or tabards. This makes it easier for people attending the show to identify who is involved in the judging process.
Pen stewards are the people between the show bench and the judging table, moving the pens between the two. They are responsible for ensuring the pens are in the correct order before and after judging, for presenting the hamsters entered in each class to the judge, and for making sure other people don’t touch the show pens or hamsters.
This role can require eyes in the back of your head at busy shows! In most cases pen stewards should be standing, although in some circumstances sitting is permitted (although I’ve found it does make keeping an eye on both the judging and the pens behind you harder). Pen stewards are allowed to enter hamsters when they are stewarding, but like book stewards must not offer comment about the hamsters being judged.
At most shows pen and book stewards are arranged in advance by the show manager with volunteers being those doing the stewarding as part of their judge training and also from exhibitors. Being a steward is very helpful if you are exhibiting and breeding to help you see ‘in the fur’ the qualities that are described in the standards.
Read our guide on Getting Started as a Pen Steward.
An important role at shows is the person running the kitchen. Keeping the judges and stewards well fed and watered helps keep the judging going smoothly, and the exhibitors appreciate a nice cuppa while chatting all things hamster during the day. It may not seem that hamster-related, but by helping in the kitchen you get to know exhibitors and you can even make contacts for future hamster acquisition! The hard work of all those helping in the kitchen helps towards the costs of hiring the hall which are increasing year on year. At shows held as part of a larger event, for example Real London, Bradford Champs and Emley, the club doesn’t run a kitchen.
Most shows have people at the sales table, selling hamsters brought by exhibitors and hamster accessories. A proportion of the money from sales goes to the club, and all hamsters need to be rehomed with a care sheet, pedigree and contact information for the breeder/person rehoming. Sometimes hamsters on the sales table have been taken in as rescues by exhibitors.
If you’re new at attending a show and are not sure who to ask something, the folk at the sales table or the show secretary are good people to approach.
The pet classes have their own judge. Depending on the size of the entry, judges for pet class may do one or all of the classes. At the Southern Hamster Club’s show in Bath, the entry for pet class is so large that pet class has a separate show secretary! The pet judges are club members, usually exhibitors, who are experienced at handling hamsters and can judge tameness and condition. Do remember to bring pets for pet class in secure carriers with food and a source of moisture, and ideally a carrier that is easy to access. I once had to judge a pet entry in a carrier shaped like a bus which had only one small door for access at one end – an unnerving way to try and pick up an unknown hamster (though I came away from the encounter with all my fingers intact thankfully)!
It’s a good idea to check the show schedule for each show as the pet classes offered can vary. Often shows that are part of a multi-animal show (e.g. Real London) only have pet classes for hamsters, whereas hall shows with usually have classes for hamsters, other rodents, rabbits and guinea pigs.
Last, but not least, a vital role is the people who help sweep and tidy the hall at the end of the show. Tidying up happens before main show presentations for a reason – to encourage everyone to participate and make the cleaning up quicker and easier. If you attend a show, remember to return used crockery and empty packets to the kitchen and take care not to leave them behind curtains or on ledges. It’s important to leave the halls in a good state as we won’t be allowed back in future years if we leave a hall messy. Often a hall floor is tidier after a hamster show than before!
Hopefully this has helped you understand who is who at a hamster show and if you’d like to find out more about these roles or would like to volunteer then please speak to our Show Manager.
Article by Rachel Owers of Vectis Hamstery