Judging an International Koi Show

If only every show was like Euregio 2023! I had a wonderful time in the Netherlands this past weekend as a member of the judging team. The judging team included US judges Larry Gill, Michelle Gravenish, Ray and Teri Alexander…Dutch judges Ruud Besmes, Richard and Anja Albertsboer…British judges Kieron Burns and Gary Hillier…and Indonesian judge Reynaldo Vidella. Our primary host was Piet Vaessen, supported by Martijn Bos, and Huub de Rijck.

My flight to Europe was marked by a five hour delay out of JFK effectively causing me to miss every reasonable connecting flight from Schiphol (Amsterdam) to Düsseldorf on Thursday. The US judges flew to Düsselfdorf because it is much closer to the koi show venue held at a recreational lake, Het Hulsbeek, near Oldenzaal. Two judges did make it to Düsseldorf and three of us took different routes to Oldenzaal. Google maps is really great and it was super easy to catch a train to Oldenzaal from Schiphol airport. Martijn met me at the train station and dropped me off at the team hotel. Piet arrived with Larry and Michelle a few hours later. After a late dinner, Piet and I went back to Düsseldorf airport (90 minutes one way) to pick up Ray and Teri who flew from Schiphol to Düsseldorf via Paris. It was a very long day, ending around 2:30 am Friday.

Then the real fun starts! Our hosts were so kind and generous. They really wanted us to enjoy ourselves and scheduled excursions to see the country. Friday was benching day and we all stopped by the show site. It was pretty amazing with 75 tanks, tents for vendors, tents for staff, flow through water system – and really happy people. It’s a lot of work but Martijn noted that everyone just rolls up their sleeves and say ‘let’s get this done together.’

Larry Gill and Piet Vaessen
Larry Gill, Martijn Bos and me

We continued on with Piet to Zaanse Schans (a windmill village) and Volendam (fishing village). It was a lot of fun to see things that we often associate with the Netherlands – windmills, wooden clogs, and the most delicious cheese. We saw some people dressed in traditional clothing, sampled local food, and walked around a few miles. If my suitcase had room, it might have been fun to come home with a pair of clogs.

Saturday morning was beautiful, sunny and warm. So exciting to come out to the show site and meet the rest of the judges. I was really looking forward to observing how judges from other countries think about evaluating koi and how a team judges 598 koi in a few hours. That’s certainly the largest koi show I have judged. The entire time that I spent judging with the international team was a great learning experience.

representing my home club – Charlotte Koi Club

We started out our day with a briefing by Rene Gerritzen, reviewing the rules and procedures associated with their show and asking us if we had any questions. Our lead judge, Larry Gill, divided us into three teams – I was on Larry’s team with Reynaldo and a Dutch trainee judge, Guido Hermsen.

Our first task was to determine the Grand Champion A, Grand Champion B, Supreme Champion and Jumbo Champion. These tend to be selected from the larger koi entered in the show. We had about 10 tanks that had potential Grand Champions, so we all visited the vats, then returned to nominate and vote upon the Grand Champions, Supreme Champion and Jumbo Champion. It’s always a good start when everyone is favoring the same koi.

Once that business was done, we were assigned a size category and judged all the koi in that size, by classification. We got a lot of steps in for the next few hours. Once the best in size determinations were made, the computer program prints out a list of the the koi in the show by variety and we go around the tanks a few more times to select the best in variety. We actually picked first and second since the show gives out awards for second place. We saw some very good quality koi and the decisions were not always easy. Our trainee judge, Guido, took notes for us into the computer system and participated in the group discussions. I think he will become a good judge.

Here are just a few of the 498 koi entered (slideshow):

Behind the judging is a team of volunteers running the show computer program, volunteers who keep all the equipment running, and water quality testing. Every vat is tested multiple times throughout the show to ensure the koi are swimming in water with the right parameters. Everything seemed well organized and our only real hiccup was a very brief power outage.

Day 1 ended around 5:30 pm and the organizers had a BBQ on the koi show grounds. It was a really great way to end a long day. On Day 2, we returned to the show for the children’s koi show and awards presentation. While we waited for the awards presentation, we had the opportunity to visit the vendor stands (slideshow).

The children’s koi show was a lot of fun. I took part in the five-man team to evaluate about 30 koi entered into this division by children under 16 years. This would be a great idea to try at some US koi shows. This division had its own awards ceremony prior to the main show awards presentation.

We eventually got to the main awards presentation. It was a fairly lengthy ceremony since names and all awards are announced. The winners received koi food, plaques, and trophies. Many exhibitors won multiple awards and were walking away with stacks of prizes. Our hosts gave us more gifts for judging that were very nice – a very unique four part show pin, beautiful pen set, chocolates , just to name a few. Koiclub Nederland really went all out! One poignant moment was the club acknowledging that this was Piet’s last show at the helm. He is turning over the show to Martijn but I’m sure he’ll be helping out in many ways.

front row: Gary Hillier (UK), Lawrence Gill (US), Ruud Besems (NL), Lori Vertin (US) — row 2: Kieron Burns (UK), Michelle Gravenish (US), Teri Alexander (US), Ray Alexander (US), Reynaldo Vidella (ID) — back row: Huub de Rijck (NL), Anja Albertsboer (NL), Richard Albertsboer (NL), Rene Gerritzen (NL), Patrick Beld (NL)

I can’t say enough what a wonderful experience I had judging Euregio 2023. Every judging assignment provides you with new ideas, clarification, something different to think about when it comes to koi and koi shows. Lots of koi talk but also a lot of getting to know the other judges. So many stories like riding the Trans-Siberian Express, taking care of Freddie Mercury’s koi, what to see in Europe, funny animals, how they became judges – really fascinating. Some judges left Sunday afternoon and I left early Monday morning. For the judges that stayed, the Dutch hospitality continued with more local excursions – I was totally jealous but I needed to get back to prepare for our trip to Japan. I’m hoping that I may get another opportunity to judge Euregio again – a very happy koi show!

6.21.2023 – just a small photo addendum. Piet Vaessen took many photos throughout the show and was kind enough to share some with me.