Local ferret show had to scamper to find new venue

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Elizabeth Adams (left) and Scarlett Gray-Saling have their hands full of ferrets in Saling's home Wednesday, Aug. 13. The two will compete against each other in the Ferret Buckeye Bash, scheduled Aug. 23 at the Northland Performing Arts Center.

The Ferret Buckeye Bash, the annual show put on by Heart of Ohio Ferret Association and Rescue Inc., raises funds to care for the mischievous pets left homeless for one reason or another.

The event itself was very nearly left homeless this year with the closing of Veterans Memorial, the venue for all but one of its previous 15 shows.

Fortunately for Scarlett Gray-Saling, the show's coordinator, she had attended a bead show at the Northland Performing Arts Center on Tamarack Boulevard.

"I liked the size of it and the proximity to where I live," the longtime Northland resident said last week amid hectic preparations for the 16th annual Ferret Buckeye Bash. "We call it 'within critical crawling distance.'"

The show will take place at the center, 4401 Tamarack Blvd., from 10 to 5 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 23. Admission is $5 for adults, $1 for children and $13 for families.

Other shows are older than the Buckeye Bash, Gray-Saling conceded, but none are bigger.

"It's the largest by far," she said. "No question."

This year's show, as has been the case since the event began to catch on and became the subject of a PBS documentary, Ferrets: The Pursuit of Excellence, by award-winning filmmaker Mark Lewis, is expected to draw participants, vendors and attendees from as far away as Great Britain, Canada and California.

"They pretty much come from all over," Gray-Saling said.

As a booster of her neighborhood, she said she is pleased that the new location will provide an economic boost to the Northland area. Most of those showing ferrets and the various vendors will stay at some of the more reputable motels Gray-Saling was able to recommend near the Performing Arts Center.

The Ferret Buckeye Bash took place at Veterans Memorial from 2000 to 2013, and the show's coordinator said she was left up in the air during uncertainty about the fate of the venue due to an existing contract -- almost up to the point of making it nearly impossible to find an alternative.

"It was pretty hectic there," Gray-Saling said. "It was December before they let me know I could look."

"When we heard the building was to be torn down, we chose the new site with the intention to bring more commerce to the Northland area," she said in a prepared statement announcing this year's show.

The show features four "title rings" and 19 specialty rings for breeders and owners of ferrets, members of the weasel family.

Bob Church, a well-known member of the ferret community from Missouri, will be the guest speaker during the Aug. 23 gathering.

Gray-Saling, who has traveled to Japan on several occasions to serve as a judge for ferret shows there, said the judge from the Land of Rising Sun who annually attends the Ferret Buckeye Bash will not be on hand this time around because of a back injury.

"All proceeds from the show benefit homeless, unwanted and hospice ferrets in the central Ohio area," according to a press release for the event.

"It's our main fundraiser, and it's what keeps us from having to out and beg for money," Gray-Saling said.

Between 60 and 120 ferrets a year go through the organization's foster program and enter hospice care, she added.