Every year at this time, Carla Maria Sullwold of North Bergen drives herself crazy putting the finishing touches on her annual Cheshire Cat Club show.
“It’s really a year’s worth of work,” said Sullwold, president of the Cheshire Cat Club, which will hold its fifth annual “Cats in Wonderland” show at the American Legion Hall on River Road in Edgewater next Saturday and Sunday (Nov. 4 and 5) from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
“We do a little bit of work each month, so it doesn’t get too much,” Sullwold said. “But in the long run, it’s an enormous amount of fun. I was watching a dog show the other day on television and that’s when I realized why I do this, because it is fun.”
1,200 cat lovers
The Cheshire Cat Club show might not have all the pageantry and sparkle of the more famous cat shows that are held at places like Madison Square Garden, but it’s certainly been a highly successful event all the same.
Last year, more than 1,200 cat enthusiasts attended the two-day event and Sullwold is hoping for more of the same this year.
“Every year, I’m very nervous before the show, wondering whether people will come,” Sullwold said. “Then the day after the show, I’m so excited about the turnout that I start making plans for next year. I feel that we’re offering something meaningful to the community and it shows that so many people care. People who come get some education what to do with their cats and to me, that’s what it’s all about.”
The theme for this year’s show is “Wonderland Derbies,” featuring the usual cast of characters from Alice in Wonderland in a thoroughbred racing setting. Each ring will evoke a famous racetrack and event, with raffles, games and events reflecting on the horse racing theme.
“The Breeders’ Cup event [the premier day in thoroughbred racing] will take place on Saturday,” Sullwold said. “We figured it would be a good way to focus on the event. If you can’t get to the Breeders’ Cup, then you can come to our show. We’re putting a little different spin on things.”
In addition to the two rings were cats will be judged, there will be two fun rings. One, called the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party, will feature felines and their handlers wearing hats from the Kentucky Derby. The other ring, called the Wonderland Invitational, will feature cats will be timed doing tricks or tasks of the judges’ devise. One other event will be the Daily Double, where spectators can guess which cats will finish the highest in the Best in Show competition and win prizes for their accuracy.
There will also be a photography contest, with categories such as Feline Antics, Feline Look-Alikes and Feline Buddies, where both exhibitors and spectators can bring in photos of their cats to be judged for competition and more prizes to be awarded on Sunday.
Of course, there are the presenters who wanted to show off their fluffy felines to be judged and graded. More than 50 exhibitors will present their cats to the judges. Let’s face it. What’s a cat show without a “Best in Show” cat? Even Sullwold will show off four of her prized Maine Coons to be judged in the show.
From one-eyed stray to competitor
One of Sullwold’s most prized cats is one that she found as a stray a few years ago. Named “Wotan” after a Norwegian Viking king who had one eye, the cat apparently lost its eye during the time it was a stray. But Sullwold saved the cat and has been showing him since, although Wotan’s days as a judged cat are now over.
“He’s 11 years old now,” Sullwold said. “He’s a happy camper just going to the shows.”
There will be other aspects to the two-day cat extravaganza that should entice show goers.
There will be several vendors on hand, trying to hawk all their latest pet products and foods. Mother Hubbard Wellness Feline Foods will be giving away 200 free samples each day to spectators. Other sponsors on hand include World’s Best Litter, Fort Lee Animal Hospital and the Animal General Veterinary Hospital of Edgewater.
Renowned pet psychic Catherine Ferguson of Jersey City will be there on Sunday, offering guidance and advice to cat owners, by actually speaking to the cats and relaying how the cats feel and think through her special, mystical gift.
Professional photos and even cat massage
Award-winning animal photographer Keith Ibsen will appear on Saturday and will be available for sittings for anyone who wishes to have a professional photo taken of their beloved pet.
Famed author Martha Garvey, who has written the highly popular “My Fat Cat,” and “My Fat Dog” series, will have a book signing on Sunday between 1-2 p.m. Garvey is a Hoboken resident.
There will be a massage therapist group, called Mindful Tails, that will provide massage and meditation for hard-to-handle cats. That presentation is slated for Sunday at 12:30 p.m.
There will also be an array of rescued kittens and cats that will be available for adoption through the Liberty Humane Society and the TLC Rescue, spearheaded by Weehawken resident Joan Doljan.
“Last year, we had 13 cats adopted, and two of them are returning this year to be judged in the Household Pet competition,” Sullwold said. “Hopefully, we can inspire people to give homeless felines a second chance and a new home.”
“People always want little kittens to bring home,” said Doljan, who used to own a pet store in Weehawken. “The adult cats don’t even get a second chance. They get cast aside. They usually end up getting euthanized. But this show has been was a marvelous success, because we have had 14 adult cats adopted. It was incredible. They took our adult cats home. It’s a superb show. It shows that breeders and rescue people can work together. Sometimes, they don’t exactly get along. But I think we both reach a level that the life of the cat is more important.”
Doljan said that she likes the setting of the smaller cat show.
“It’s more intimate than Madison Square Garden,” Doljan said. “The people who are interested get a chance to talk with the presenters and talk about their cats. Many people can’t afford to either go to New York or show there. This is more affordable for everyone and it really makes more sense.”
The show is held with the approval of the American Association of Cat Enthusiasts and is the largest show that the AACE puts on each year.
The fifth annual Cheshire Cat Club “Cats in Wonderland” show will be held Saturday, Nov. 4 and Sunday, Nov. 5 at the American Legion Hall, 1165 River Road in Edgewater from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day. Tickets are priced at $6 for adults and $4 for children. For further information, call (201) 868-1238 before 9 p.m.