MEEKER I Once again, the scene at Ute Park west of Meeker has been transformed as the 28th annual Meeker Classic Sheepdog Trials began Wednesday and continues through the championship rounds on Sunday.
The Meeker Classic Sheepdog Trials is known as the trial “to go to” by handlers around the world. Why the prestige?
Handlers cite the friendly atmosphere, enthusiastic spectators, wealth of ancillary activities and, most of all, the sheep.
Seven hundred and sixty yearling merino ewes have been separated from their summer home and flock in the high country north of Vail and Wolcott. These sheep are known in the dog trialing world as tough and independent ones that challenge even the best dog and handler teams as they work together to maneuver the group through obstacles common to ranching operations.
The sheep and the rough 600-yard high-altitude course have led many a competitor whose dog was perplexed to exclaim, “I’ve been Meekered!” The phrase is now standard usage worldwide.
To help you better understand and enjoy the competition, there is an educational DVD available and written materials in the program. Announcer Ray Crabtree of Kuna, Idaho, himself a rancher and trialer, will provide insightful commentary as each run proceeds. The handlers, too, are always happy to chat about the course and their dogs.
Elvin Kopp, of Westerose, Alberta, Canada, is returning to Meeker as the 2014 event judge. Kopp has a rich history with the Meeker Classic. He won the first Meeker Classic with his dog, Jeff, in 1987 and in 2006 he came back to judge the 20th anniversary event. Kopp brings a wealth of knowledge with him as a rancher and competitive trialer. He is tirelessly dedicated to all aspects of raising, training and handling border collies.
The events and attractions associated with the Meeker Classic continue to expand year after year. New this year to the trials is the museum art exhibit “Portraits of Pastoralism” by Cat Urbigkit. The exhibit will be on display in the Wilber Art Barn. This traveling exhibit highlights the challenges of pastoralism around the globe.
On Saturday, Sheepcamp Wool Mill has organized a special demonstration that will show the complete process of turning sheep’s wool into a finished product. The first step, shearing the sheep, will start at 9 a.m., and the demonstration will continue throughout the day.
The Meeker Classic will feature the traditional favorites as well — artisan craft and food fair, art contest and auction, flyball and agility dogs, a petting farm, pancake breakfast, barbecues, educational seminars and demonstrations.
This years’ educational demonstrations will focus on range and predator management, sheep breeds and their uses, training working dog, historic and modern sheep camps, Navajo weaving, felting, wool waulking, kilt making, leather working and so much more.
For the second year, the Art Reception will serve double duty as the art awards and lamb cook-off competition. Samples from various chefs and cooking enthusiasts will tantalize your taste buds while everyone will find a favorite among the variety of art displayed.
After an overwhelming response last year, and an unfortunate rain cancellation, there will once again be a free screening of the sheepdog trialing documentary “Away To Me.” The Meeker Classic is excited to have two of the principal subjects, Amanda Milliken and Bill Berhow, in its field of competitors as well. Also welcomed back will be director and filmmaker Andrew “Drew” Hadra.
On Saturday evening, during the Lions Club barbecue and into the night, the crowd-pleasing Rocky Mountain Scots, a pipe and drum band, and the Crowlin Ferlies are sure to provide great musical entertainment for the entire family.
For those who can’t get enough of dogs, there’s the Jackpot Trial at the Rio Blanco County Fairgrounds in Meeker.
Attendees are urged to take the shuttle or carriage from town to the trial site. It is also suggested to bring sunscreen, a hat and probably a rain jacket or umbrella to Ute Park. Maybe a lawn chair, too, especially for the movie and concert. But please, leave your pets at home.
For more details, see the schedule on page 4A in this issue of the Herald Times. Find that and much more at www.meekersheepdog.com.