Up and Down El Rio Blanco: Perseverance

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“Endeavor to persevere,” said Lone Watie, the Indian character in the 1976 movie “The Outlaw Josey Wales.”
Endeavoring to persevere is what the Meeker Classic Sheepdog Championship Trials have done for a quarter of a century.
What started over a cup of coffee in downtown Meeker as an idea for economic development has grown into a world-class event.
Gus Halandras(one of the people at that first coffee conversation), was the event’s biggest advocate and he had a way of getting everyone excited about watching intelligent dogs follow commands to herd Meeker’s “wild” sheep through an obstacle course in a limited amount of time.
I wasn’t living in Meeker in the mid 1980s when what locals call “the dog trials” began but when I moved back in the mid 1990s, it wasn’t hard to get involved.
As a friend of Regas Halandras, Gus’s son, it wasn’t long before I was flipping hamburgers at the trials.
In my humble opinion, the sheepdog trials committee Gus formed to organize the event made good decisions from the start: offer a large purse to draw the best competition, get the community behind the event by involving more than 100 volunteers, treat and feed those volunteers well, and to make things more entertaining and unpredictable, challenge the dogs to try working sheep just off their summer range. The challenge motivates the best handlers in the world and it’s fun to watch. The committee has always done a great job of marketing the event and the area and educating the spectators so they can better enjoy the competition.
Posters and brochures for the 2011 Meeker Classic are available now, with many big things, including a $25,000 purse, planned for the silver anniversary. It’s an event which has met and exceeded expectations for 25 years, boosting the economy in Meeker and the area.
The competition itself and accompanying activities now last five days. Many of the competitors and spectators return to Meeker for “the dog trials” every year and many of the volunteers, like Gus, have been there since the first cup of coffee, endeavoring to persevere.