From My Window: Volunteers make the county go ’round; Meekerpalooza a success

Sean McMahon, Editor
Sean McMahon, Editor
There’s always the Rio Blanco County Fair, 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. Then there is Rangely’s Septemberfest, which runs a couple of days in late summer.

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 now, this week’s inaugural five-day Meeker National Cattledog Association Finals and the upcoming 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, jump out from behind trees, lay down their fishing poles, forget about going camping for a couple days and just plain realize the importance of volunteering at various events, whichever end of the county an event is.
From big events like the County Fair to the little events, each and every one of them requires volunteers.
The Rio Blanco County Fair, Range Call, the Meeker Sheepdog Classic, Rangely’s Septemberfest and now the cattledog trials are most likely the five 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 the 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, they are timers 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 showers 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 and 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 thank 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 volunteer for any given event all the way up to to those, it seems, who volunteer for every event.

We just had another fun but exhausting weekend in Meeker with Meekerpalooza from noon until 9 p.m. on Saturday at Ute Park.
Ute Park continues to be a spectacular venue for Meekerpalooza, which drew probably several times the number of people this year than it drew two years ago, when it was held at Circle Park, across the river from Meeker Town Park. It’s a good bet that at least as many if not more folks attended on Saturday than last year as well, when it was held at Ute Park for the first time.
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, particularly the music provided by Brad Fitch and the Tropic Cowboy Band from mostly Boulder, which played as a John Denver tribute band for its 90-minute set. The audience was singing along with every song the group played.
In addition to the Fitch band, there was a highly eclectic variety of music from blue grass to country, and everything in between. If you didn’t like one band, you can bet that you would probably like what was next. It was well planned and well received.
The food choices were sparse but what was there was good and equally diverse with meatball and pulled pork sandwiches, hot dogs, hamburgers, brats, a wide variety of Mexican food, snow cones, kettle corn and beverages of all sizes, tastes and calorie counts.
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.
But the addition of the 10K run, the flea market and the farmers’ market at least pulled those people down to the downtown, and that brought some of the people back downtown from two years ago and previously, when the entire event was held on the courthouse lawn.
I want to see the entire event 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 and now the cattledog trials, 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 last year’s inaugural performance of the Meeker National Cattledog Finals. 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 on medium-length 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 the 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 last year, when one of the cows double kicked backward and barely missed sending the border collie into Garfield County.
The major difference is that the cow handlers have to bring the cows in through a much-more-intricate route. The cattle battle is a shorter duration and for those with a shorter attention span, it might be more enjoyable.
The dog 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 last year’s cattledog event to ponder making it an annual event. It obviously lit that spark.
Good luck to all—and God bless the volunteers.

Tis that time of year again when we honor what is often the head of the family and the male figure of the family that often leads the family to where it will end up in life.
It takes a single physical act to be a dad, but it take so much more to be a father in the fullest definition of the position—being there when and as needed to nurture the family members through to a successful life in which the kids know the difference between right and wrong.
To those living up to their responsibilities, we wish you a very happy Father’s Day.

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