We returned to Meeker in time for the 24th Annual Meeker Classic Sheepdog Championship Trials. This world-renowned event attracts competitors from all over the world. Karl and I started working the trials in 2003. The community pulls together providing hundreds of volunteers to organize and bring this event to Meeker.
In 2000, the group of volunteer organizers received the Colorado State Tourism Board’s Award for Local Initiative. Each year you see the same volunteer faces, many have worked from the beginning of the trials and a very large percentage have worked more than 10 years.
In the past the economics students at Colorado State University performed a study on the Meeker Classic and found that it had brought in about $1 million per year for the town, as well as about $250,000 for outlying areas like Rangely and Craig. This is a great boost to the economy of this sleepy community.
In addition to the competition there is the craft show, petting farm, Animal Emergency Service Big Rig, Western Border Collie Rescue; stockdog handling demonstrations, Border Collie education, bagpiping, and a variety of great food from fast food, lamb barbecue, and a beef barbecue served on the town square the night of the free concert.
The object of the trial course is to test the dog’s ability to manage/maneuver (not drive) sheep in a calm, controlled manner. The course is set up to evaluate skills that a working dog needs to assist the shepherd in his/her work. This can be quite a challenge. The sheep used for the trials are summered in the high country and have a mind of their own. If you know anything about sheep you know they like to stay in a group and if one bolts they all bolt, if one misbehaves they all misbehave.
Herding dogs demand respect from the crowd and the sheep with their intense gaze and predator stance. They are intelligent, have quick reflexes, and a strong desire to please. There is no nipping or barking, just calm maneuvering. After watching these herding dogs work, you understand that this is their love and they were not meant to live in apartments or be penned. They need space to work and a loyal owner.