I entered into the wonderful hobby of rabbit breeding with my daughter, Angela, in 1997. My husband had passed from an extended illness and I viewed this rabbit thing as something my daughter and I could do together to make up for all the time we spent apart due to treatments and hospital visits. As a rabbit mom hanging out in the shadows, it wasn’t long before Mr. Tom Barker escorted me behind a judging table and asked me to take comments. I expressed my lack of knowledge and he said, “Don’t worry, just get the placements.” That was just the beginning. I went on to work rabbit shows in every capacity from taking comments to mailing show reports.
My daughter’s first breed was Mini Rex. A few short years later, on my daughter’s 16th birthday, Mr. Edward Antwine presented Angela with a trio of beautiful little rabbits called “Polish”. A new love for this hobby emerged. It didn’t take long for this little breed to fill our barn. Under Ed’s mentorship, we learned just what made these little rabbits unique and how to breed for quality stock.
I was quite content being the rabbit mom. I was also chief chauffer, financier, show worker extraordinaire, and hay distributor in the barn until my daughter left home at 18. During those nights distributing hay, my love for those little rabbits blossomed. My co-workers asked what I was going to do with “all those rabbits” now that my daughter had moved out and I proudly announced I would take the best stock and breed my own little show rabbits. That was the beginning of Act 2 of my rabbit hobby.
The word “no” has never been part of my vocabulary, so whenever someone said help was required, I jumped right in. Not mentioning the various rabbit club Board of Director positions I held over the years, below are a few of the other positions I availed myself to.
Newsletter Editor, 1997 – 2003 Texas Mini Rex Rabbit Club
Assistant Secretary, 1998 to 2016 Johnson County Rabbit Breeders Association
Show Secretary, 2000 to present Fort Worth Livestock Show – Rabbit Show
Show Secretary, 2006 to present State Fair of Texas Rabbit Show
Secretary/Treasurer, 2003 – 2009 Lone Star Polish Rabbit Club, Texas
Assistant Open Secretary 2006 ARBA Convention, Fort Worth, TX
APRC Sweepstakes Secretary, 2004 to 2006
APRC Secretary/Treasurer, 2006 to 2017
The year I became APRC Secretary/Treasurer, Sissy Dennison became APRC President. We made a commitment to bring together what was then a divided club and give voice to its members. Together, we expanded the APRC Sweepstakes from total breed points, to include varieties and quality points. We started and grew the first ever APRC Youth Scholarship Fund. In 2007, we spent months working together to update the APRC Constitution and By-Laws, create Districts based on membership demographics, created a website, etc., to bring our club into the “21st Century”, as Sissy liked to say.
Sissy and I worked hard to expand the Polish presence at ARBA Conventions. We went from one little booth into two, which later became three full of ever-changing, fun merchandise and fabulous raffle items, topped off with Scholarship Auctions that rivaled the best! As the years went by, the Polish numbers shown at ARBA Conventions soared to new heights. Several times, we were third highest breed numbers shown. The membership more than doubled and Polish sanction requests nearly tripled.
Unfortunately, we lost Sissy to cancer in March 2012, but I held on to our commitment to keep growing the APRC working with various Presidents, Board Members, Sweeps Secretaries and Newsletter Editors; well, until 2017 when I turned in my resignation to make room for newer and younger blood, as they say.
It was my privilege and honor to service the APRC and to work so closely with so many members. While I may not be as active as I once was, my favorite breed is still the Polish rabbit and I will continue to support and promote our Little Aristocrat any way I am able
2019 ARBA Convention
Courtesy of Jill Schmitt
The APRC Hall of Fame
Polish Pioneer Award
By Grant Olson
The Polish Pioneer Award was purposed at the 1990 ARBA Convention in Tampa, Florida. Stan Freed made a motion as follows: “The APRC begin giving a special plaque in amount of $15.00 - $25.00 to honor deceased Polish Pioneers only. The names to come from anyone in the membership the membership who would like to submit a name to the BOD and that the BOD select that that individual for as many years as we decide to keep continued: and to be presented at each annual ARBA Convention.” The name of the individual will be solicited from the membership. The Secretary will send the names nominated to the BOD for their decision. A decision was made at the 2000 ARBA Convention in Columbus, OH on a request from Secretary Betty Strathman to remove the word “Deceased” from the award. This was approved by the membership in attendance.
The award is to honor those individuals who have demonstrated their dedication to promoting the Polish rabbit by raising, showing and improving the quality of the breed. They are promoters and supporters of the APRC for many years and have shared their knowledge of the Polish breed with others. They would also show good sportsmanship, honesty and integrity in these endeavors.
The first award honored Walter Hawkins(CA) in 1991 then “Mr. Polish” Carlton Gaddis(IN), Floyd Tobias(PA), Charles Henry(MA), W.H. Kennedy(PA), James Blyth(PA), Frank Pandina(NY), Mac McConnell(PA), Wilson Everhart(OK), Gil Scheef(NE), George Judy(OH), Bob Strathman (OH), Grant Olson(GA), Betty Strathman(OH), Genny Gentry(AZ), Carl Lape(OH), Mabel Tobias (PA), C.M. Carroll(OK), Sissy Dennison(CO), Erik Bengtson(MN), Madelyn Beckstrom(MN), Richard and Judy Krebs(KY), Trevor Sypnieski(MN), and in 2019 Kathi Groves is the latest honoree for her support and promotion of the
“The Little Aristocrat”.