From My Window: Volunteers are the stars! Meekerpalooza, Cattledogs were successes

Sean McMahon, Editor
Sean McMahon, Editor
There’s always the Rio Blanco County Fair, the Range Call and the Meeker Classic Sheepdog Trials. Those are the big multi-day events that fall on the summer calendar in Rio Blanco County. And there is Rangely’s Septemberfest, which runs a couple of days during Labor Day weekend.

By all rights, there is no sound reason why these events work in Rio Blanco County. There are a lot of square miles here, but not a lot of people.
There are also a number of one-day events here, just looking at Saturday’s Meekerpalooza and Sunday’s inaugural Meeker Cattledog Classic and the July 4 events in Rangely.
People in this county are being pulled in all directions by work, social obligations, family events, etc.
But you know what? Volunteers seem to crawl out of the woodwork, get out from behind trees, lay down their fishing poles, forget about going camping for a weekend and just plain realize the importance of volunteering at various events, whichever end of the county an event is held in.
From happenings like the County Fair to the upcoming Buford Fish Fry, there are big events, little events, but each and every one of them requires volunteers.
The Rio Blanco County Fair, Range Call, the Meeker Sheepdog Classic and Septemberfest are arguably the biggest “fun” events of the summer, and scads of volunteers are needed for each. “Scads” can be defined as probably more than 100 volunteers each day for multiple days.
The volunteers are the organizers, security, traffic directors, parking organizers, etc., and they help judges, keep track of the livestock and farm animals, take tickets, volunteer in booths, clean up after the livestock, prepare food and beverages of all types, clean up after the humans, set up tents, take down tents, keep score at events, time running events, sing The Star Spangled Banner, set off fireworks, make certain the fireworks don’t set the forest afire, give demonstrations, make root beer floats and deal with those who become inebriated or get out of hand.
Volunteers tend to the fairgrounds, clean up Ute Park and the downtown areas when events are held there. They make certain that livestock handlers have access to water for their small animals and livestock. They act in the recreation of the Meeker Massacre and the Meeker Bank Robbery.
They guide where the cars park at Septemberfest in Rangely and make certain to provide water for the obstacle course up by the old Parkview school. They put on free barbecues in Elks Park, monitor the large number of events held. They plan the parade routes in both towns, they help organize who leads the parade and who follows in what order, they answer questions for curious out-of-town visitors.
They do an immense amount of work at each one of these events.
This column is dedicated to those people because the great events we have at both ends of Rio Blanco County truly depend on these people and would be real failures if those friends, neighbors and other residents didn’t jump up and volunteer.
The residents and organizers in this county cannot say or do enough to show all you volunteers all the gratitude that is felt toward you around here, and a large amount of “quality of life” is owed to you.
It has become a catch phrase in regard to the military who serve our country, but I don’t think it is a big stretch to extend a “thank you for your service” to those hundreds or even thousands of volunteers in Rio Blanco County who sign up for any given event, to those, it seems, who volunteer for every event there is to volunteer for.

We just had another fun but exhausting weekend in Meeker with Meekerpalooza from noon until the 10 p.m. fireworks on Saturday at Ute Park, just west of Meeker, and with the first-ever (inaugural) Meeker Cattledog Classic, running from 7:30 a.m. until roughly 4 p.m. on Sunday, also at Ute Park.
Ute Park turned out to be a spectacular venue for Meekerpalooza, which attracted probably three or four times the number of people this year than it drew last year, when it was held at Circle Park, across the river from Meeker Town Park.
Meekerpalooza was a complete success.
The number of family, children, adults and vendors were all an improvement over the past, but it was the real fun the children had doing so many different things that made the obvious difference.
There were plenty of things going on all day to keep the kids busy, and the music was enjoyable and not too tough to listen to for the adults.
There was a highly eclectic variety of music from blue grass to country, to Mexican/Tejano music to harder jazz/rock and everything in between. If you didn’t like one band, you could bet that you would probably like what was next. It was well planned and well received.
The food was equally good and equally diverse with everything from red Thai curry, curried lamb, hamburgers, hotdogs, barbecue, a wide variety of Mexican foods, snow cones and beverages of all sizes, tastes and calorie counts.
Most of the food was unique enough to be uncommon treats around here, yet, the hot dogs, hamburgers, brats and other goodies were there in excellent form to satiate the common palate for the not-too-adventurous diner.
As for the venue change this year, it was a good thing for participants, visitors and residents. Ute Park really does offer a great landscape that wraps around 360 degrees.
The view is beautiful and even those who were worrying about the rain coming in made several vocalizations about how beautiful it was, offering more room, was more scenic and actually afforded more parking.
Is it a good thing for downtown Meeker’s retail stores? No.
At this point, are there enough retail businesses and galleries to insist that it return to downtown Meeker next year?
I am dubious, but I hope the organizers will take into serious considerations the effect of moving all the events out of town from the downtown businesses.
It is quickly becoming a very popular event; it is well attended and well sponsored.
I want to see it continue to grow, but I think it is a wonderful idea to hold it all on one day.
With Rangely’s Septemberfest, the Range Call in Meeker, the Rio Blanco County Fair and the Meeker Sheepdog Classic, I would say there are enough multiple-day events and not many more weekend days to put them on.

I must admit as well that I enjoyed Sunday’s inaugural performance of the Meeker Cattledog Classic. It is quite similar to September’s sheepdog classic yet quite different in its own right.
In the cattledog event, the premise of sending the dog a long run to gather up three yearlings–instead of 10 sheep–and then bringing them back to one pen, via four previous stations hits me as a little easier on the dogs and the handlers than the sheep are.
On the other hand, we all know cows aren’t the brightest bulbs in a box, and to get even three of those large critters to do what you want is a tough task just in the size difference between the sheep and the cows.
A small dog is not going to intimidate a cow. I saw that on Sunday when one of the cows double kicked backward and barely missed sending the border collie into Garfield County.
The major difference is that the sheep handlers have 35 minutes to bring the sheep in through a much-more-intricate route while shedding specific sheep from the overall flock compared to the cattle gathers, who have a maximum of 13 minutes to get their business done.
The cattle battle is a shorter duration and for those with a shorter attention span, it might be more enjoyable.
The sheep are a different story. It takes longer, there is limited contact between the dog and sheep, and it is just plain a tougher task to handle all those many sheep, yet you do get a better understanding of what goes on between the dog and its handler.
The dogs and sheep events are great for spectators provided the weather is good, and they are distinctly different.
I know the hope was with the organizers to raise enough interest with the cattledogs to ponder making it an annual event.
I think it is a good idea.
People seemed to enjoy the event, although I am not convinced that a cattledog event is worthy of another four- or five-day event with Range Call just three weeks away.

It doesn’t let up for this weekend either. The fun just moves west a little bit to Rangely, which will play host to the annual four-wheel-drive rock-crawling competition.