It's more than just a
by Lori Jo Whitehaus, Past President
So just what does a state club do? Most of us are members of the ARBA and are active in a local all-breed club or specialty club. Some of us are 4-H leaders and work with the youth in our home area. Why do some states have “state” clubs and just what do they do? In Pennsylvania, our state club had an unusual beginning. In the late 1980’s, the Pennsylvania Farm Show (our version of a State Fair) agreed to add Rabbits as a commodity only if an association would sponsor the department. Thus, the Pennsylvania State Rabbit Breeders Association was formed to include principal members and affiliated clubs.
Today, the PaSRBA continues to provide leadership and volunteers for the Farm Show’s Rabbit Department with Sue Toth as the 2007 Chair. The Farm Show is the largest indoor agricultural event in the United States with more than 25 acres under one roof. This year’s rabbit show featured 7 judges, 172 exhibitors and over 1100 entries with 9 youth meat pens auctioned off at the end of the show. The eight-day event drew more than 400,000 visitors to see the cows, the butter sculpture, the square dancers, the food court, and, of course, the rabbits. Ellen Anderson and Tori Whitehaus coordinated the Farm Show Learning Station in the rabbit department. They featured free samples of rabbit jerky, daily presentations by our youth and judges, and the Bunny to Bonnet demonstration by our angora breeders. Harvesting wool, spinning, and knitting/crocheting as a team, wool is taken from the rabbit to create a set of baby booties and bonnet in about three hours.
The PaSRBA’s annual convention in February is the other main event sponsored by this statewide club. Growing steadily each year, the event now fills the entire Lebanon Expo Center in central Pennsylvania with five halls in constant use. The Open Hall, Youth Hall, Wool Room, and Cavy Room surround Center Hall, which features the specialty club tables, the raffle, the awards table, and the open secretary’s table. Brian Bell who also served as Show Superintendent chaired the 2007 event. The club takes a risk with this day-of-entry show but planned big this year by bringing in 31 judges for this two-day event coordinated by Ruth-Ann Bell. The youth and open shows for rabbits and cavies each day were enhanced by 16 specialty shows. Volunteers led by Equipment Chair Gerry Vaerewyck set up all five halls in record time. Overnight cooping was available and organized by Ellen Anderson.
The numbers astounded all of us with exhibitors coming from Maine to Georgia and as far west as Indiana. Entries in the PaSRBA shows alone reached 3800 on Saturday and 3000 on Sunday. Adding the specialty show entries, our judges handled 10,500 entries during the two days. Events surrounding the judging included raffles, banquet with a fun auction, and the PaSRBA general membership meeting. Chair Darlene Pajak and her family led the youth Royalty Contests and other youth events. The new Royalty Court includes Queen: Piper Smith, Queen; Becky Forney, Duchess; Richard Vaerewyck, Duke; Hailey Wolfe, Princess; Robert Vaerewyck, Prince; Veronica Rodriguez, Lady and Matthew Nock, Lord.
Each year we attract more all-bred and specialty clubs to become Affiliated Clubs with the PaSRBA. One attraction is low cost insurance coverage for all affiliated clubs. We also offer use of our equipment and discounts for specialty shows at our convention. Of course, all members are participants in our sweeps program. We have an equal number of principle members who support the state club.
What makes the PaSRBA such a successful club? With currently over 300 individual (principle) members along with 300 other as members of our affiliated clubs, the PaSRBA’s leadership listens. We are open to change and listen to the members to try and give them what they want. Our surveys at both the Farm Show and State Convention are read and reviewed by the committee chairs and all comments are taken seriously for consideration in planning improvements for the following year. I am proud to be the president of this club because there are a lot of talented people working together to make everything be successful. Membership is not limited to Pennsylvania residents. Visit us at . Next year, make plans to attend our convention. You won’t be sorry.