River City (Dog) Days near
Alex Ryan of Red Wing is an animal lover.
After graduating from University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point with degree in biology and psychology, he spent two years in southeast Georgia training sea lions and dolphins with the U.S. Navy Marine Mammal Program. While there he got involved at a hunting plantation training dogs.
"At the time I had gotten my own dog, Dickson, and I started training him up," Ryan said.
This is when he first heard of the Super Retriever Series, a number of national contests for dogs and their trainers.
After about five years of competing, Ryan and Dickson won an event in Tulsa, Okla., qualifying them for the Crown Championship. Devastatingly, Dickson died before he got a chance to compete in the championship, leaving Ryan with a new passion for the sport, but no dog.
Now Ryan has Daisy, who after years of training won an event in North Carolina last March that qualified her for the Crown Championship.
"Five years and we're back in the game," Ryan said.
And "the game" is a big deal for Ryan, who recently converted his Red Wing property into a training ground for himself and others. Once a relatively flat stretch including a wetland, Ryan's property now consists of manmade mounds and ponds—the necessary terrain for his chosen event.
Ryan competes in field trials, a send-and-retrieve challenge for the dog.
To begin, a "mark" is hidden on the course and the dog must run in a straight line, overcoming obstacles including hills or water, to retrieve the item.
The point system is similar to that of golf, the lower the better.
"A zero would be if the dog left here and ran in a perfectly straight line and picked up the bird." Ryan said.
If the dog needs extra assistance, the owner blows a whistle and directs the animal toward the "mark" with hand signals.
"Everything you need to do to direct that dog to that is a point deduction." he said.
Red Wing now has a chance to witness the competition in a Super Retriever Series event held over River City Days, Aug. 2-5.
The event will be split into four parts, the first hosted at Treasure Island Resort & Casino, and the final three at Ryan's transformed property, Wildflower Bottom Kennels. The course is at the intersection of Highway 61 and County Road 21/Flower Valley Road, from there look for signs directing to the property.
Ryan expects a large number of competitors due to the town's central location for trainers in the region.
"I thought this area would be a good fit," Ryan said. "I thought people would enjoy it."
River City Days also will feature dog dock jumping, another Super Retriever Series event, at Bay Point Park. Dogs will show off their long and high jump skills as they leap from a dock into an above-ground pool.
Closing ceremonies for both the field trials and the dock jumping will be held Sunday, Aug. 5, at Bay Point Park,.
Patty Brown, executive director and president of the Red Wing Area Chamber of Commerce, encourages spectators to check out Rivercitydays.org for a full schedule of events and more information on the Super Retriever Series.
Ryan said he is still unsure if he will compete in the Red Wing event, considering the stigma of competing on his "home turf," but he is excited to share his love of the game with his community.