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MEEKER I There were 125 dog handlers and more than 1,000 visitors between Wednesday’s preliminaries and Sunday’s finals of the Meeker Classic Sheepdog Championship Trial in Ute Park, and the response to the weekend of activities was highly positive from participants, visitors and Meeker residents.
More than 38 states and several provinces of Canada were represented in the parking lots over the weekend while hundreds of other took the shuttle or carriage from downtown to event on the west edge of town, where the parking lots were filled to near capacity on Saturday and Sunday.
Rich Hinrichs, a visitor from Boulder, said, “I just happened to wander on to the classic and I must say that I thoroughly enjoyed the event. I saw a similar event inside at the Western Stock Show in Denver, but it was nothing really like this. These are tough sheep, the dogs have to run a whole lot farther and I found it fascinating.”
George Wrath of Riverton, Wyo., said, “I had heard of the Meeker Classic and I figured it would be a bunch of old cowboys rounding up sheep and being timed. I have never seen such well-trained teams of the handler and the dog like I saw this weekend, and I was really impressed.
“Not only was the event really interesting, but the food on hand was not your normal ‘rodeo grub,’ it was great with the racks of ribs, all kinds of lamb and pork and Mexican food that were genuinely good food.”
Beverly Lamber, one of the 12 finalists in the conversation, had other words of praise for the event. “The weather was really quite good and the fields were in good green condition. The course was rough, but that is what makes Meeker the gem it is. It’s tough, but we enjoyed ourselves tremendously.
Tomas Ibarra of Sonora, Mexico, who was traveling through with his family on their way to Yellowstone National Park, said he had never seen anything like the Meeker Classic.
“We just stopped into lunch on Wednesday, saw all the cars on the roadside and stopped to see what was going on. To see those dogs work so hard and to watch the patience of the handler was really exciting to us. We started out after lunch to continue to Yellowstone, got as far as Rangely and decided we wanted to come back Thursday. We are leaving today (Saturday) and will have only a few days in Yellowstone because we stayed here so long, but I think my family and I agree that it was worth it.”
Pat Weiss-Taylor of Boulder also said she had seen sheepdog contests before on TV and in stadiums, but nothing on the scale of the Meeker Classic.
“This was really impressive,” she said. “I had no idea that these championship trials cover so much land and that they require such incredible dog work with the handler. By virtue of only two handlers completing the course in five days, I’d say Meeker is a pretty rough course, and those sheep were certainly no followers.”
Handler Mike Hanley of Lexington, Kent., was a bit down after his dog, Shy, an 8-year-old female, was disqualified on Thursday for biting one of the sheep. However, he was still in good humor over the overall experience and the competition in Meeker.
“This is really a tough course, and that is what makes Meeker so great,” he said. “We have had a great time here and will likely stay for a few more days and watch how the handlers do. I’m not certain I would bet that any of the dogs will complete the course.”
Bagpiper Bob Wyatt of Sheridan, Wyo., said, “I always enjoy coming through Meeker. It is a fine town surrounded by a beautiful valley. I enjoy piping for the Meeker Classic — and I have done many other trials around the county — but none of the other makes me feel so much at home as when I am in Meeker. It is a tremendous dog trial and I look forward to doing this for years to come.”
Judge Bevis Jordon of Australia said it was a rough five days of judging.
“But when it is all said and done, I am really happy to be here to take part in the Meeker Classic,” he said. “There are great people here in Meeker and the handlers and dogs are fun to watch work together. This has been a great event this year.”
Catherine Walker, age 7, of Roosevelt, Utah, was at the event with her parents for Saturday’s performances. She said on Sunday, “I talked my mommy and daddy into staying over so we could watch the dogs again today. I love these dogs. I told my mommy and daddy I want to come back here every weekend and watch the doggies and sheep.”
Maria Lorenzi of Albuquerque, N.M., said the three days in Meeker had been a wonderful experience for her, her husband and two children. The next stop for them is to relatives in Montana.
“We had a great motel room and every meal we ate in town and at the Meeker Classic were wonderful,” she said. “I had lamb for the first time in my life and me and my children loved it. We were treated wonderfully in town and at the classic; it was probably the best vacation we have ever had. We all enjoyed the petting zoo and the demonstrations. We’re all looking forward to next year, I’m sure.”