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MEEKER I As Kay Stephens and her dog, Gala, from Normangee, Texas, walked to the post at 7 a.m. Wednesday, she marked a 29-year tradition of sheepdog trials in Meeker.
It was Herbert Holmes and Nell that walked to the post to start the day back in 1987 for what was to become the Meeker Classic Sheepdog Championship Trials. Through the years, the trial has grown as it moved to various sites around the community and ultimately found its permanent home at Ute Park, bordering Meeker’s west city limits.
What started as an idea between friends over a cup of coffee at the kitchen table has become a timeless classic, a premier event for western Colorado that garners respect and recognition in sheepdog circles around the world. Carrying on the tradition of the early organizers of the Meeker Classic, community members muster up support and volunteers as they work to orchestrate what’s become a time for Meeker to open its doors to the world.
As the early morning sun warms the White River Valley, it will be joined by the all-familiar site of handlers up with their dogs preparing for their runs as the corrals at the other end of the field bustle with activity as the Meeker sheep are readied for the day.
Flags are raised, gates are opened, coffee is brewed and spectators arrive to watch a day of sheepdog competition and join in the annual event that’s become a Meeker tradition. It’s a five-day showcase of volunteerism, sportsmanship and friendship standing testimony to what community is all about. It takes each person involved, each entity working together like a finely-tuned machine, to bring the event to fruition.
The Meeker Classic is now a homecoming week—a time to renew friendships, catch up on things and meet new folks that share a common thread. Just as the community looks forward to the sight of dogs and their handlers pulling into town, so too do all others involved anticipate their time in Meeker.
Visiting Meeker for the first time this year is trail judge Johnny Robinson of Coldingham, Beriwckshire, Scotland. A hill shepherd for most of his life, Robinson brings a wealth of knowledge, experience and reputation.
Herding sheep and working teams of dogs over vast ranges of hills comprising thousands of acres, Robinson worked as livestock manager and head shepherd for the Duke of Roxburgh for 22 years before he and his wife, Margie (from USA), purchased a farm on the moorlands of the Scottish borders in Coldingham.
Robinson continues to breed his own line of dogs and competes and judges on the national and international levels. He will judge 130 dog/handler teams in three days of preliminary runs. Of the preliminary runs, the top 30 will advance to the semi-final competition on Saturday with the top 12 semifinalists making it to the double-lift finals on Sunday.
Joining the dogs, handlers and sheep are countless volunteers, event participants and spectators that complete the stage for the Meeker Classic. Vendors, artists, demonstrators and industry experts have come together to present a full range of opportunities for all interests held together with a common thread—the love of the working sheepdog and the love of the Meeker Classic.
Meeker spectators take ownership in the competition and the dogs, knowing them by name and skill set; they diligently track scores as they cheer on their personal favorites.
More than 500 school children from Northwest Colorado will visit Meeker this year in the organized school program on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. The students enjoy an action packed field day including a trip to the trials, a visit with handlers and participation in a variety of enrichment workshops and activities provided by a diverse set of educational presenters and demonstrators. This unique opportunity is provided to schools and students free of charge thanks to the generosity of XTO Energy.
One would be remiss not to mention other opportunities available to Meeker Classic visitors. Some of the top fly-ball and dog agility competitors in the area make an annual trek to Meeker to demonstrate their sport and participate in the education program. Handlers share their time and expertise during demonstrations and seminars while Celtic musicians and pipe and drum performers provide enrichment opportunities for all ages. Vendors share their wares of all things “made in the USA” showcasing the sheep, wool, dog and ag-related industries. Well known entertainer Gary McMahan will spend the week in Meeker as he takes time to enjoy the sheepdog competition and gets to know the folks at the Meeker Classic. A singer, song-writer, yodeler and story teller, Gary will be the featured act for the free outdoor concert on Saturday evening on the courthouse lawn. Concert goers will be treated to a Scottish Pipe and Drum band as the opener for the evening.
It’s sure to be a good week for Meeker and all those involved—a time to celebrate our friendships, heritage and community. Stop by the Meeker Classic if you have time. You’ll be glad you did. For more information call 970-878-0111 or visit www.meekersheepdog.com.