For exhibitors, spectators, photographers and judges — a ring full of dairy cattle can be both exhilarating and exhausting at the same time. Regardless of where you view each class from it is a demanding process. But imagine if you had to be at the show from the time the first exhibitor walks into the ring until the last exhibitor heads back to the barn. Murray Reissner knows exactly how that feels because he has done it at the Royal every year for the last 20 years!
October 2013 marked the 20th year that Murray Reissner of Woodstock, Ontario expertly discharged his responsibilities as ringmaster at the Royal. (Read more: Canadian National Holstein Show Results and The Royal Flu – Did you catch it? ) “The exhibitors know I am there to make each and every one of them look good at all times.” Of course, Murray and his show ring peers cannot correct conformation of the animals in the ring. However they can and do make a tremendous difference by making sure they are seen from the best vantage point – whether you’re viewing the spectacle from ringside, on the halter or as the Judge of the show.
The Royal Coliseum: A Fine Place to Start
From the viewpoint of 20 years, Murray recalls how it all got started. “Way back in 1992, I received a call from Jane Whaley from Holstein Canada. As it turned out, the Quebec Holstein Rep who had been the ringman at the Royal for years, had suffered a heart attack in mid October and as such, would not be available for the Royal.” Murray was asked to be a one-time Royal Ringman and, amazed at the opportunity and vowing to do his best, he nervously answered. “Yes!” Needless to say, Murray survived and learned a lot. “My one time shot was over!”
Reissner’s Place is in the Ring
However as luck and history very rarely come into our lives exactly as we expect them to, Murray’s ring experience was about to change. The next year, Murray was invited to “share the duties”. The team got along quite well so it wasn’t surprising that Murray received another call the next spring when the ring steward position was open. “The Royal was mine if I wanted it.” Murray recalls. “What an opportunity to be up close and personal with so many great Holstein cows!” Of course the rest, as they say, is history.
A Place for Everyone. Everyone in their Place.
Murray has many memories highlighting the special years at the Royal. “Perhaps the greatest memories though are the people in the ring. Just to watch them is a great pleasure. The euphoria of winning, the fist pumps, the hugs and tears. I think of Tom & Kelli Krull this year, that shot of Rob & Brian Eby last year or the tears streaming down Mario Comtois’ cheeks as he leads the Supreme Champion in Madison.” His enthusiasm for the great moments in the ring is built upon the responsibility he feels when doing his job. “First of all, I have a responsibility to the exhibitors to make their journey into the ring as easy and comfortable as possible. Each and every exhibitor should have the same opportunity to exhibit their animal to the best possible placing.” Undoubtedly this has earned him some respect as well. “Over the years even our seasoned veteran show people are always asking me if they are in the right position or if their cow “looks good back there”. For the spectators it is obvious to see that Murray’s military-style gets the job done. This friendly drill sergeant has his own way of doing things. “I like strict routine, straight lines, no cutting corners and no stampedes out of the ring. You need to be firm but courteous as well as everyone is under a lot of “stress” on the day”.
Judges look forward to the Reissner Routine
Murray Reissner has worked with 18 different judges over his 20 years of experience and is emphatic about one thing. “My utmost responsibility is to the Judge.” In addition, his experience as an official judge himself has proven to be an asset in his role as ring steward. “When I judge, I like to stand well back and get that first panoramic view of the entire class. This can only happen if we get the entire class into the ring quickly. It also serves to help our judges from judging in the corners. We have lots of room so let’s use it to our best advantage.” Obviously seeing the class through the eyes of the judge is a great help. “We like to keep the individuals fairly close together so it cuts down the “steps” for the judge and fills in the gaps. More decisions are made from 30 feet away than from 3 feet. Getting that first panoramic view is a great first look. The other is having all those animals lined up neat and tidy again for that first view from behind. I’m there to look after all the little details like getting the class into the ring quickly, giving them the best possible view of the animals and moving the animals into a line that is easily viewed and ready for their final assessment.” Having said that he knows he has a balancing act to perform. “My other responsibility is to the spectators who travel long miles, spend excessive amount of money (especially in Toronto) and come to the show wanting to see or have the best view possible. The line up needs to give everyone a great view regardless of where they are seated or standing.” A caring drill sergeant indeed!
With Teamwork in Place — Everything Works!
Murray clearly understands that it takes everyone working together to make the National Holstein Show run smoothly. “I am just part of a great team. Jane Whaley was Team Leader for many years. Now Christa Crowley is the Team Leader and did a great job her first year on her own.” He gives credit for the work it takes. “Christa is the quarterback who calls the plays and gives us the ball. Our job is to run with it. Whether it’s the guys behind the scene, checking the cows in, Valerie translating or Norm announcing.” Like Murray they care about putting on the best show possible. “I am the ‘fortunate one’ who gets to share centre stage under the bright lights. For that I am eternally grateful and that’s what gives me the adrenaline rush!”
It`s A Multi-Media Show Place
Despite his well-recognized ability to do his job without interfering with the cattle, exhibitors or judge, Murray acknowledges that “You are constantly in the spotlight.” Modern social media has affected his celebrity status in his family as well. “Even my 4 little grandkids who range in age from 3 to 5 were watching “Papa” on the “puter” while he was at the Royal.” Murray enjoys the heartfelt recognition he feels that the focus is best when it’s directed to the cattle. “At the Royal we are showcasing Canada’s best and I want to give every media source the best possibility to get those great shots that go viral in minutes. I want to give every media person the opportunity to get just what they want regardless if its Bullvine, Cowsmopolitan, Holstein World, Holstein International, Holstein Canada or even the fans in the stands who capture some great and unique shots (Carl Saucier – check out some of Carl’s great shots).” For Murray this often means going above and beyond normal ring steward parameters. “I have become more conscience of straight lines, tails set, clean cows, and movement that allows the media to capture this part of history. I guess I’m the only ring steward that makes noise to gets those ears up for those memories in line or the final parade. It’s just my way of making your job easier as a media person covering the National show.” Thanks Murray.
The Right Place to Get it in Writing
The ringside is a wonderful place to come up with new and exciting ideas. Such was the case for Murray Reissner and National and Provincial Holstein association peers, Jane Whaley and Bill Dobbin. At one point the suggestion was made that Murray should compile his experiences into a book. The next thing he knew, he was informed that the two associations were going to split the cost of making this publication so they encouraged him to “get at it”. “After giving it some thought while touring around the countryside in my bull buying capacity, I decided to sequester myself in my office one day and just put down anything that came to mind right from schooling as a judge etc. I started right from the beginning just like I was the judge except that I was the ring steward. I tried to cover everything. If it came to mind, it went on paper. Once I got in the mode, I was full bore until it was done………………22 pages of notes double spaced.” This time he wasn’t only in the right place, he found the write time. Of course then came the big job. “We had to tear it apart bit by bit, paragraph by paragraph, page by page. Jane and Bill had no idea what I had accumulated in my experiences over the years. “And so “The Dairy Show Ring Steward” became reality. “Little did we know what a “success” this little booklet would be. (Get your copy of The Dairy Show Ring Steward)
We’ve had a second printing and just may have to print a few more. I receive a lot of nice compliments on the book from right across Canada and some have even been sent around the world or picked up at the Holstein Canada booth the Royal!” Well earned praise for something Murray originally thought was just idle chatter. He has also been on the committee that formulated the publication “You Be The Judge” and the “Leading to Win” video. “What a lot of work that was especially trying to coordinate a book and a video at the same time. I spent hours in Cambridge editing video and sound. All worth it though.”
A Place to Stand A Place to Grow
It’s hard to imagine where Murray finds the time for all the extra-curricular show ring interests he has. He has been on the organizing committee for the 4-H Classic Show at the Royal for over 30 years where he declares. “Over the years we’ve seen it all.” This is Canada’s largest 4-H show and Murray feels it is a great committee that all have the passion and commitment to our youth. “I’m a Gold Sponsor of this event and volunteer my time every year just because it’s so much fun and our kids are just a pleasure to be around.” But there are other youth groups that he finds close to his heart such as the Ontario Inter-Country 4-H judging competition. He points out. “It is so much fun to watch kids succeed.” He outlines the history. “This program has been going for 24 years now with a team going to Madison every year. In the earlier years, we also used to take a team to the North American International Livestock Show in Louisville Kentucky. I had the chance to take every team to Louisville before we discontinued this adventure. Three years ago, I was asked by Jason French to accompany Bertram Stewart with the Ontario Team going to Madison” While he could never replace the late Hazel Stewart as “4-H Mom” Murray treasures the team experience. “Bertram is a wealth of knowledge and, even at my age, there are still things to be learned from him.”
World Dairy Expo: A Place Like No Other
Murray is emphatic about what he likes best about World Dairy Expo. “Definitely the best part of being with the Madison team is getting to know the kids. You learn a lot in 10 days on the road. In the few short years, I seen these young people grow and mature and come out of their shell. For many, it’s their first time to World Dairy Expo. I’ve often said that “Madison may not be a life changing experience but, it certainly is life altering” I’m so proud of the young adults that we have sent to Madison. Just to watch them as they step onto the colored shaving is a great feeling.”
The Bottom Line
At the end of every show day, ring stewards are at the hub of the whole experience. They see what judges, audience and exhibitors see. They anticipate what is needed before it happens. When to walk. When to stop. Where to lineup. They work with recalcitrant calves. Nervous exhibitors. They rescue runaways. They build rapport with everybody.
Congratulations to Murray on 20 exemplary years focused on making sure that cattle are seen in the right place at the right time. For all his family, friends, fans, peers and judges he fulfils the responsible role of Ring Steward to a T…… That’s Reissner Royal-T!!