As many of us get ready to head West to the 99th ARBA Convention to be held in Reno, we always have that feeling did we forget to pack something? Did we pack all the rabbit supplies? Did I forget my toothbrush again? I have been in this position. And it’s always when you are miles from home that this feeling comes up. I have been lucky enough to have been able to attend most conventions since 2007. The only ones I have not been able to attend have been the 2 held in Reno. Someday I am hoping to make that trip!!! So, with some years behind me in experience I am going to give you an idea of what you should pack for yourself and most importantly your rabbits.
First of all, let’s get to the list for the Rabbits. Check out the ARBA.net website. Go to the link that will take you to the information for this year's convention. Read up on everything that you can. Order a show catalog!!! It will have valuable information in it, for instance the date entries are due, cost of entries, tours that have been organized by the hosting club, banquets, what booth’s will be at convention, who your breed’s judge is. Pull your ARBA card that you haven’t used in at least a year, check the expiration date. Make sure it is active. (Then put it in a safe spot because it needs to make the trip with you). Now that you know where to get information that you need, either a paper copy of the catalog or electronic version we need to make a list of how many animals we will be taking and which ones. Follow the information in the catalog to enter your animals. Grab your ARBA card again because you need it to do your entries. Put your entries into the system. Make sure you check all the tours and banquets that you wish to attend. Put your payment into the system and then print a copy of your receipt (2 is even wiser). I always take a folder that has this receipt in it, a copy of my entry, a copy of pedigrees for all animals that I am taking, hotel reservations, car rental, airline info, and reservations to any event I will be attending.
Even if I am not planning on selling any rabbits at convention, I take pedigrees with me. They may be for sale if the price is right or I may want to trade with a breeder for a different line. It is handy to have them available quickly. Now that my entries are in, we have just a few weeks before the actual event (Or as a friend called it, “The Big Dance”). I suggest making Cage tags so that way it is much easier for you to find the one black buck Mini Rex in a row of 50 other black Mini Rex. Having a unique and eye catching to you tag that will hook to the cage will help make doing chores much much easier. Check the convention catalog to find out what is the acceptable size that you can have. Just remember on load out day, you will need to remove this tag. You can either take it home with you or discard it in the trash on your way out. Make enough so that every rabbit you take will have a tag plus a few extra. If you plan on purchasing any new stock this will help locate them faster.
Start collecting the supplies that you will need to take with you. I suggest purchasing a rubber tote with a lid that has a handle on it to store the supplies. Things you will want to consider is:
Puppy Pads- in your carrying cages put a layer of shavings then put a puppy pad on top of it. This will absorb the urine and make cleaning so much easier. Take enough to change each day of travel there and back.
Zip Ties- when you get to the convention there may be issues with the cages that you are assigned. With zip ties, you will be amazed on what you can fix and make work. Some rabbits are very good escape artist. Zip tying the cages when you leave the show hall for the night helps keep them in their cages. This also discourages other exhibitors from opening up their cages. Take a pack of at least 20 with you. You may need less or you may need more. All depends on the year. You also may have to zip tie feed/water dishes to the cage.
Wire Cutters- these are important for a few different reasons. Again, you may need to make adjustments to the cage that you are putting the rabbit in by bending wire, etc. Most importantly you will need to make sure you have something to cut the zip ties. Especially the morning of show day. If a cage is zip tie when the show is starting, then the rules is if the runners for the class go to get your rabbit to put on the table and your cage is zip tied, they are not allowed to cut the zip tie. That is your responsibility.
Toenail Clippers- in the rare occasion you have misplaced the wire cutters then toenail clippers have been known to cut zip ties. Grab the bigger ones. Also, handy if you have a rabbit who has broken a nail or needs a good trimming before show day. Also, for yourself if you break a nail in the showroom and need to clip it really quick.
Water can or jugs of water- I usually grab 3 to 5 jugs of water to take with me. It’s easier to keep the rabbits on a spring water then having to worry about the taste of city water or what is available.
Pack a few bigger trash bags. Sometimes you will need to change the shavings in your carriers and there is nothing around to just dump them in. Most convenient to have a bag to put the shavings in, puppy pads and then dump the whole bag. It’s good to have a bag on hand in case it is needed for other reasons.
Cart- Don't forget your cart... Oh some of these showrooms are super long. It’s a good walk from one end to the other. You don’t want to have to carry the cages, supplies. Making multiple trips isn’t always fun either. If you are an open exhibitor and the kids are still in youth, you may be able in different show rooms. Please make sure to oil the wheels before you leave. The other exhibitors will thank you!!!
Inserts- You will want to review the Convention catalog again to see what size cages that are assigned to your breed. Don’t always guarantee that those will be the cages that you will get, but it will give you an idea. The sizes will give you an idea of what size insert you will need in order to put into the cage. The inserts will help keep the rabbits out of the shavings. Thus, avoiding sitting in their pee.
Feed- Yes, I know in the show catalog it will list all the feed that will be available. The thing you don’t know is how many bags of each feed is available. Make sure you pack enough feed to get you to the convention and home from the convention. Also figure in at least 3 days of convention. This way if you need to mix with something else you can. Make sure you put the feed in a sealed tight container. This is in case the container spills in the vehicle at least it stays contained.
Supplements- Start some type of supplement before you go to convention. This will help in case you have one or two rabbits that go off feed. At least you can get them to eat this. Great product is Doc Enhancer. My animals love it. They can smell it as soon as I come down the row with it. So, I know that if we are on the road and I see they are not getting their pellets (Oren Reynolds feed of choice here!) then I can put Doc Enhancer on their feed to get them to eat something.
A backpack or bag- I have a friend who has carried the same backpack whenever she goes to convention. He is a token mascot now. This backpack can have all kinds of goodies in it. Put your business cards in here, cash, credit cards, license, your folder with paperwork, a charger for your phone, snacks for the day. There is usually a food vendor either in the hall or near the hall, but you never know when you will have time to grab a bite to eat. Take snacks that are easy to transport- granola bars, nuts, fruit snacks, etc.)
Clothes, necessities- Make sure you pack according to the weather that you are going to. Even though it may be San Diego (been there done this!), pack a sweatshirt. Make sure you have enough medication to get you thru the time you will be gone. Toothpaste, tooth brush, brush, deordant, extra socks, shampoo, conditioner, body soap, any other necessities that you need. Phone charges, computer charger, watch charger, charger for every electronic that you may be taking with you!
Taking the trip to convention is a wonderful experience. Not only will you be able to meet new people, fellow breeders, names that you only see the Domestic Rabbit, but you will see so many of the breeds that may not be exhibited in your area. There will also be presentations of new breeds and varieties. That is an experience to watch. If you get a chance take some time to watch this. This year I am unable to attend the convention. Therefore, I will be one of those waiting for the updates... But most of all remember to take it all in! It is an experience of a lifetime!!! See everyone in Louisville, KY 2023!!!