The Perks of Having a Press Pass

August 25, 2020
By Kathryn Prerost
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We hopped onto the bus to get to Pier 94. I watched the raindrops trickle down the side of the window and tried to guess which one would hit the bottom first. I never won. My family was in New York City to go to the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show for the first time. It was an exciting new experience and on the final night we’d end up at Madison Square Garden for the selection of Best in Show. We shared the bus with interesting passengers. Some were dogs on their way to compete in the ring while others were preparing to compete. Due to the rain, some dogs were wearing raincoats to stay groomed. It was adorable! My family and I then walked out of the bus and into the chilly streets of New York. When we stepped in the building, I got in a special line with my friends and writers, Ted and Bernie Slupik, and Gail Diedrichsen (another friend and writer) to pick up our press passes. They were in New York to celebrate with me and my family. I’d won a Dog Writers Association of America’s 2019 Young Writers award and would be recognized at a banquet.

Scoring a press pass made me feel like I was being a show-off. I didn’t see any other kids in line so I felt a little awkward. But Ted and Bernie reminded me that I had earned it. I thought back to when Ted promised he’d try and get me a press pass. I didn’t have much hope. After all, I was just a kid, and kids aren’t allowed one of those. But I was proven wrong! I remember the day Bernie shot me a text sharing the good news; my application had been approved and I would be awarded the coveted pass! I was squirming around like a giant cooked spaghetti noodle in the kitchen when my mom came home. She immediately knew something was up. I told her I would be rollin’ with the “big guns.” Now there were two cooked spaghetti noodles in the kitchen.

 After waiting for what felt like years, the day finally arrived. I gave a woman at the reception desk my name, and she handed over my official pass. It was a fancy purple and gold Westminster Kennel Club lanyard. I placed it around my neck with pride and excitement and walked into the main arena past the line of people buying entry tickets. I immediately saw a closed-off room with a black curtain as the wall. There was a sign outside of the entrance labeled “Pressroom.” My group told me that I was allowed in because of my pass, so I ran over and peeked my head in the door. Tables in rows filled the room. Journalists and reporters sat busy on their devices. Coats were hung over the backs of chairs and cords were crisscrossing in every which way and was afraid I might trip. A security guard was to my right, and to my left was a well-stocked snack table just for us. The security guard was just about to get up and usher me out of there, so I acted like I was checking the place out, making sure she could see the shiny pass around my neck.  Quickly, I grabbed two bottles of water, a bag of pretzels, and hightailed it out of there. Little did she know I’d be back again later for some cookies and brownies. When I came back later she recognized me and then I even took extra so I could share with my brother since the pressroom was off-limits to him.

We then walked over to the rings to see fluffy tails perked in the air, bobbing around in circles. Hundreds of spectators swarmed around the rings watching the show dogs. I could tell the dogs knew they were special. I felt the same way! Gail suggested we go to the “benched” area where the dogs would be getting ready for the ring. I fell in love with each and every dog. Because we had our press passes, people were more willing to talk to us and allow us to take photos of the dogs on the tables getting ready. After lots of oohing and ahhing, we decided to head to the rings and watch the dogs compete. We spotted Bernie who was setting up her camera behind the roped-off area. She had saved us a great spot. We flashed our passes to the guards and walked into the restricted area.  I was starting to get excited about all the things we could do with this little laminated piece of paper. We sat down next to Bernie to watch the dogs. She pointed her camera’s lens across the ring and said, “Kathryn, LOOK! We’re on TV.” We started to laugh and every time the camera would pan over to where we were sitting, we would wave to our friends back at home.

The day quickly came to an end, and we were all famished. We packed up our stuff and headed for the exit, grabbing some cookies for the road. We were very eager to return the next day. As we walked to the exit, I saw a security guard and waved at him. He saw my pass, smiled, nodded, and gave me a thumbs up. I felt very proud and was very pleased with myself!  I waited until he was out of earshot and told my crew what happened. They all took their turns teasing me about how I’m “so famous” and “the paparazzi should be here any minute.”  We walked out into the cold and rainy outdoors, quickly shuffling to the bus stop. I looked back to take everything in one more time before I got on the bus. I found my seat and texted my friends at home to tell them what had happened. I didn’t expect a reply because they were still in school. I looked to the right of me to see raindrops trickling down the side of the window once again.

The next day, I was able to take advantage of my status, and I interviewed people who probably would never be able to talk to me without this special pass. That night, at the judging at Madison Square Garden, I was able to sit in the front row of the press booth on the ground level because of this magical piece of paper. We were very close to the dogs and watched one from each breed being judged by very important judges. The jumbo monitors above showed what was being showed by television, and I saw myself on national T.V.! I waved to my parents and brother up in the stands. Because of the pass, I was also allowed backstage during the competition and I got to see the dogs in waiting for their turn being groomed. I was even able to interview a few winning people that were the dogs’ handlers and even got a kiss from one of their dogs!

When we got back to our hotel, we all collapsed on our beds, I took off my press pass and looked at it feeling proud and accomplished. My brother asked how I got to do so much stuff that he couldn’t. I just smiled and said, “I guess it’s just the perks of having a press pass.”

By Kathryn Prerost, Age 14, Naperville Illinois. Kathryn is a freshman at Naperville Central High School and enjoys piano, singing, and plays volleyball with a local team. She lives in Naperville with her parents, younger brother Jack, and her dog, Maggie.