The Kem Memorial Sweepstakes

by Bertha Frank Garrison

The Kem Memorial Sweepstakes -- these were “magical” words in the late 50's through the 90's. Competing in this very special sweeps would send your heart beating a bit faster, and thinking you really had something good enough to win . . . why that would just send chills through collie breeders, very experienced or novice.  Winning THE KEM . . . A dream come true.

Gus Sigritz, of Cherrivale fame, was the main force behind this renowned sweeps.  This was to honor some very special “collie people,” the Kems -- Fred, his wife Madge and also son Oren.  They bred collies that were hard working. Livestock owners across the country knew of the working ability of these dogs and did whatever they could to get one of the great Lodestone collies into their area to work their stock (and help with the neighbors stock too).  The Kems also bred collies of great beauty. The Lodestone dogs were the foundation for many of the collie kennels that were to emerge in the 40's and 50's -- Parader, Cherrivale, Hertzville, Noranda and Cainbrooke.  The Kems were always willing to help,  talking breeding ideas and writing many, many articles on the collie for the dog magazines of the day.  All this and the Kems did not even show their dogs. Their understanding of form and function  was complete enough that breeders came to them for knowledge and quality.

So, to honor the Kems, this sweeps needed to be very special.  

The entry fee -- it was set up at $10, which at the time was TWICE the fee of an adult entered in the regular class.  This was to encourage breeders to put their very best pups in this sweeps, ones they hoped would make an impact on the breed.

The judge -- it couldn't be just some newcomer.. it needed to be one knowledgeable in the breed . . . so it would be a licensed judge, AKC would have already screened the people so an AKC licensed judge would do the honors.

The pups would be owner-handled or shown by a friend, not  a professional. And, because breeders were showing their own pups, their best, the process was that the winners class would have all four placements come in for the finals. This would give the breeders a second chance on that day to showcase their best pups.  The thinking was that the experienced judge should be able to handle, and actually welcome the challenge of having 16 pups in the ring at one time.

This special sweeps needed to be hosted by more than one club. One club probably would not be able to sustain the uniqueness of it, and there would be a freshness to the sweeps each year if different clubs would take turns hosting the Kem.  And, because the different clubs had different show dates, make the date of eligibility when they would be 1 year old -- a uniform date -- sort of like race horses. January 15 of a given year would be the date. If the pup was born after that date it would be considered a pup.

And THE Trophy -- this also would be unique, fitting a BEST IN SHOW win by an adult . . . a punch bowl, silver (to start with it was sterling) with plate, ladle and cups; A gorgeous piece to bring home in case your spouse really thought this dog show thing was really a bother. In other words, something that could be shown off to non-dog people.  And not only would the trophy be lavish, but only a select group of people would be allowed to donate to the trophy fund (never wanted the talk to be that someone won it because they donated lots of money to the trophy fund).  So, each sponsoring club and a few people (not more than six) paid for the trophy.

Certain aspects of the Kem sweeps have changed through the years, mostly from AKC rule changes and from the changes in the different clubs, but this is the LONGEST running sweepstakes in ANY BREED.  Oldtimers in other breeds are aware of this sweeps and its longevity.  Hopefully this sweeps can continue and flourish.  At a time when we want our dogs to not only be beautiful, but versatile as well, honoring the breeders that were very instrumental in making our smart dogs beautiful, seems very appropriate.

The Indiana Collie Club will host the 49th and 50th Kem Memorial Sweepstakes
in Edinburgh, Indiana on May 12 and 13, 2007.
Entries close April 25, 2007 for this special event.

Related Features:
Past Winners
Article by Sally Futh

The Collie presents an impressive, proud picture of true balance, each part being in harmonious proportion to every other part and to the whole.

– from the AKC Collie Breed Standard

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