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MEEKER | Believe it or not, it’s Trials time again. The Meeker Classic Championship Sheepdog Trials kicks off its 32nd year on Wednesday, Sept. 5, showing off not just the orneriness of range sheep but the incredible power of a team of volunteers, and local residents have a unique opportunity to get involved.
The Meeker Classic got its start as a “what if” conversation over coffee and has grown into a regionally, nationally and internationally acclaimed event that brings thousands of visitors to Meeker every year. Last year approximately 7,500 people attended the trials during the five-day event, more than twice the local population.
More than 350 year-round volunteers—who do everything from taking tickets to overseeing the parking lot to emptying trash and marketing—are eligible for free passes for the whole five-day event. Locals who buy tickets at Wendll’s or the Meeker Chamber of Commerce get an approximately 20 percent discount. To buy tickets online (without the locals discount) visit http://bit.ly/2MBWhco.
One hundred and thirty dogs and 80-85 handlers will compete for $25,000 in prize money.
“We have a handler coming from Switzerland this year,” said Classic director Maym Cunningham. The handler is a friend of Derek Fisher, the youngest ever winner of the Classic who is now on the world team. This year’s judge, Bruce Fogt from Ohio, competed in the first classic 32 years ago.
This year’s schedule doesn’t hold a lot of changes to the traditional events like the art show and contest. It is the second year of the Jammin’ Lamb culinary competition, which is held in downtown Meeker on Saturday and is an opportunity to sample the very best in lamb cuisine.
“We have eight or nine competitors signed up so far,” Cunningham said. Competitors submit lamb dishes to the judges for review. Attendees can judge for themselves. Tickets are available at http://bit.ly/2MDmmYw.
New this year will be coverage by Rocky Mountain PBS (RMPBS) for the Colorado Experience program. The Classic won an online viewers’ choice contest last year.
This year the race was tight between the history of Tesla’s time in Colorado and the history of the international competition, The Meeker Classic. And, as we all know, Meeker won the vote! Last year “Aviation” won, and “Dinosaurs” and “Ladies of the Mines” before that. This year’s outcome was in large part due to the town itself and those who support the competition internationally.
“It is always fun to watch people get excited about Colorado topics, especially those within their own communities,” said RMPBS associate producer Clarissa Guy via email. The Meeker Classic episode will air Feb. 28, 2019 and Guy said they plan to premiere the episode in Meeker.
The annual art contest, which now includes a photography competition, will be juried by local photographer Dale Hallebach and artist John Kobald. The art contest awards ceremony will be held Thursday at Ute Park.
On Friday the Classic will again host an art, wine and cheese event downtown.
Celtic musicians participating in the trials will visit the Walbridge Wing one day.
The event has battled microbursts, snow, freezing temperatures, rain, wind and blazing heat. This year’s natural enemy may be smoke, depending on what happens between now and then with the wildfires nearby.
The Classic will offer all firefighters a free pass to the event.
The Trials begin Wednesday, Sept. 5 at 7 a.m., and continue through Sunday afternoon with the awards ceremony. To get involved as a volunteer, call 970-878-0111 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
By NIKI TURNER