June 18, 2018
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Boat show festivities attract man, and his best friend

By Bill Trotter, BDN Staff

ROCKLAND, Maine — It was a typical dog day of summer Sunday on the waterfront, and for one dog in particular it was his day for the second year in a row.

Pancho Villa, a half-pug, half-beagle owned by the Matlack family of Camden, glided away from the competition Sunday at the Maine Boats, Homes & Harbors Show, successfully defending his title as World Championship Boatyard Dog.

The event was the top draw Sunday at the waterfront boat show, which is organized and staged every summer by Maine Boats, Homes & Harbors magazine.

The watercraft on display garnered most of the overall attention during the three-day event, but at midmorning Sunday the main focus was on a small float off Harbor Park. There, six contestants and their handlers took the float one by one as hundreds of observers and announcers cheered them on.

Each pooch maneuvered around a set of lobster traps on the float and then quickly scampered into and back out of a dinghy tied to the float. From there, it was up to each dog and his or her handlers to demonstrate their special, boat-friendly talents.

For Pancho Villa, it was surfing — and possibly a bribe of fudge from his owners to the judges.

With 13-year-old Abigail Matlack and her 10-year old brother, Elliot, paddling separate surfboards away from the float, Pancho Villa nimbly hopped from one to the other.

“He loves the surfboards,” Kathryn Matlack, mother of Pancho’s handlers, said as her dog received a large dog dish for his championship trophy. “Anytime we go out he loves to hop on.”

Besides the judges insisting that cheating is allowed and that there were no rules, there was one rule they enforced during the competition. For each dog, either the pet or handler had to get wet. Pancho Villa had managed to stay dry while navigating the dinghy and surfboards, so Elliot Matlack obliged, doing a front flip off the float and into the harbor.

Port Clyde resident Gary Libby, owner of Red, and Rockport resident Ron Staschak, owner of Hazel, both got soaked. Staschak went in after Hazel, who couldn’t get back on the float after retrieving a tennis ball, and led her to a small piece of nearby beach. Libby had to go in later because Red wouldn’t.

“He won’t go in the water, so Gary had to go,” said Kim Libby, Gary’s wife. Red fell into the water a few times as a puppy and has refused to swim ever since, she said.

The Libbys said they didn’t really know what the competition would be like and weren’t very well prepared.

“We’ll have to teach him some tricks next year,” Kim Libby said.

“We’ll have to bribe more next year,” Gary Libby countered.

As for the rest of the show, it had even more viewers, according to organizers. David Getchell, associate editor of the host magazine, estimated that attendance was up 10 to 15 percent from 2009, when the event drew 9,000 people.

“This is a 5-acre venue, so it soaks up a lot of people,” Getchell said of the Harbor Park area.

Getchell said that more than 140 boats were on display at the show, which ran from Friday through Sunday. Of those, 67 were in the water and 75 on land, he said.

“They range from dinghies to 52-foot power yachts,” Getchell said.

Leila Murphy, the show manager, said good weather helped draw people to the show this year. It enjoyed good weather in 2009 too, she said, but last summer was so wet that many people likely took advantage of the sunshine during last year’s show to do more active things, like getting out on the water or tending their gardens.

This year’s attendance also might reflect more consumer confidence in the economy than existed last year, Murphy said.

Aside from the boats, the show had hundreds of other exhibitors, ranging from furniture makers to solar panel manufacturers, food vendors, yacht services providers and jewelers. All were on hand to offer their wares or services.

“They are all creators,” Maine Boats, Homes & Harbors Publisher John Hanson said of exhibitors and vendors at the show. “That’s what gives this show its energy. It’s wonderful to get all these creative people together all in one place.”

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